Tetri Devi’s family is suffering because she has borrowed 40kg of rice from a village landlord some 25 years ago.
The 55-year-old from Sano Dhirapur village of Matihani Municipality, Dhanusha, says the landlord had made her sign a bond before lending her the rice and now he is using the document to extort her.
“My husband was sick at the time and I needed the rice to feed my family,” she says. “I had never imagined it would come to this.”
Over the years, Tetra Devi paid Rs 32,000 as interest to the landlord, who, unbeknownst to her, also captured what little land her family owned.
“The landlord and government survey officers colluded and left us landless. Who is going to help us now?”
Tetra Devi is among dozens of people in her village who have been conned by local landlords. They have been left high and dry by their loan shark landlords.
When Garatiya Devi was unable to pay Rs 2,500 loan to Jaikumar Sah, her son agreed to work as a driver at Sah’s home. She says Sah had even agreed to pay her son Rs 15,000 as monthly salary, but he never paid.
“My son was supposed to get Rs 45,000 after working for three months, but the landlord [Sah] refused to pay, saying he was keeping the sum as an interest.”
But Garatiya Devi’s trouble did not end there, as she would later find out that Sah had filed a case against her for defaulting on a loan of Rs 700,000.
“I am still facing the case at the District Court and my properties remain frozen pending the court ruling,” laments Garatiya Devi. “The landlord threatens me all the time. I get abuses hurled at me and I cannot do anything.”
Ramo Khwate is also facing litigation for non-payment of loan after he was unable to pay Rs 50,000 loan that he had taken from Binod Sah at a high interest rate. He had used the loan money to send his son abroad for employment about 10 years ago.
“I managed to pay Rs 250,000 as interest for five years and after that I could not manage any longer,” says Khwate. “The landlord has filed a court case demanding Rs 788,000. I cannot get that kind of money.”
Khwate remembers Sah taking his thumbprint on more than one bond agreement while issuing him the loan. He claims that Sah misused his thumbprint.
“I am illiterate so I agreed to give my thumbprint on three different papers after he told me that the agreement was not correctly drawn up.”
Like Khwate, Garatiya Devi and Tetra Devi also feel their landlords took advantage of their ignorance and a lack of political reach.
Hopeless, they have demanded the federal government to intervene. Their delegation even reached Kathmandu to press their demand.
A government task force formed to look into their demand has already submitted its findings to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Dhanusha Chief District Officer Upendra Neupane says the victims are hopeful the government will deliver them justice.
“We have been getting many complaints after the government formed the task force and we found out that most of the cases have reached the court,” he says. “We will take our next step as per the recommendation of the government.”