Abhilash Medhi

Abhilash Medhi (Blind Education and Rehabilitation Development Organization (BERDO): Abhilash was born Assam, India. He earned a Bachelors degree in Civil Engineering from Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology, Nagpur, India and then worked as an Assistant Systems Engineer with Tata Consultancy Services in Mumbai, India. Abhilash also volunteered for Child Rights and You in Mumbai, India where he specialized in child labour laws, helped build alliances against child labour, and developed micro-credit schemes for poor women. Abhilash volunteered at the 2nd IEEE/ACM International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD 2007). At the time of his fellowship Abhilash was pursuing a Master’s degree in Development Studies at The London School of Economics and Political Science.

Social mobility, BERDO-style

31 Aug

BERDO’s micro-credit programme loans out sums starting from Tk 5000 upto Tk 20000 to disabled individuals and females, at an annual interest rate of 12.5%. BERDO itself takes this money on loan at an interest rate of 4.5% per annum. The remaining amount goes towards transaction costs. Repayment starts from the week after and the loan has to be repaid in 45 instalments. Allowances have been made taking into account personal emergencies and BERDO expects its debtors to return the sum in 52 instalments (a years’ time). A first time debtor is eligible for a loan of Tk 5000.

A debtor at his vegetable shop

People put these amounts to a variety of uses: they start small scale retails shops, tea-joints; sell vegetables from door-to-door; rear chickens and ducks; and buy rickshaws and nachiman gaadis (hand-started, motor-driven carts). For some, these loans present an opportunity to earn more, save and to accumulate assets – a step towards upward mobility. For others, the whole micro-credit cycle is a defensive strategy to cope with penury, a mechanism to ensure that they meet their day-to-day expenses.

A debtor with his nachiman gaadi

Sidr, the cyclone that devastated Southern Bangladesh has pushed repayment rates down from a perfect 100% to 99.7% for disabled individuals and 98.4% for females. A debtor mentioned that a few NGOs had had to shelf their micro-finance initiatives – such was the impact Sidr had on repayment rates. BERDO and its loanees have managed to keep their heads above water. She also revealed that she had paid no instalment for a period of four months, a proposition that BERDO was alright with. Most importantly perhaps, she mentioned that the loan in itself (and the weekly instalments) did not feel like an additional burden in the aftermath of Sidr. And that at no point of time did she rue the fact that she had taken a loan.

Posted By Abhilash Medhi

Posted Aug 31st, 2009

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