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In every step, there is a middleman in India. Try to meet a top government official, the peon or clerk puts up a ‘toll gate’. Without paying the ‘tax’ to him, you cannot get the access. This cannot be mistaken with brokerage, which is a genuine transaction. A genuine broker always offers a service and gets his dues. The broker makes a deal between a buyer and a seller, who do not know each other before. But the ‘service’ offered by middleman can be done away with. There will be no impact on the service as a whole. In fact, the service will change for the better.

Illiteracy and red tape have caused mushrooming of middleman. While illiterate people have no option but to take somebody’s help in preparing the papers, the educated ones fear the red tape. Both end up taking resort to middleman. The middleman menace has recently taken toll on beneficiaries of Kisan Credit Card (KCC) in Meghalaya. A large section of people from Garo Hills region comprising five districts have reportedly complained that money was withdrawn from their accounts without their knowledge. Some also complained that the middleman charged Rs 2,000 for ‘processing’ loans of Rs 20,000 and above. They allege that the middleman was ‘authorised’ by the bank itself. There is no recognised system of middleman in obtaining bank loans. He was accused of keeping the passbooks of beneficiaries and withdrawing money by forging their signatures. He, in reply, contends that he’s a ‘social worker’ and just helped the illiterate villagers in availing the loans.

Although no police complaint has been lodged against the person so far, the existence of such middlemen exploiting simple villagers is a harsh reality. Are nationalised banks not responsible for preparing the loan papers of genuine beneficiaries? They must have dedicated persons for helping beneficiaries with the loan papers. KCC loans are meant for farmers, who are mostly either illiterate or semi literate. They need authorised expert hand for such documentations. If the bank cannot afford to have the manpower to deal with huge number of applicants, it should formally appoint such middleman deduct his fees from the loan amount. It is also the bank’s responsibility to scan the so-called social workers and ensure that the loans reach the right hands.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on March 21)