Documents of ADATS - Book 1

Progress Report on the Coolie Credit Funds (July 1985)

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The CCF was conceived by the Coolies themselves in a grassroot planning exercise. It was the logical development of the increasing strength of the Coolie Sangha Units in the villages and an indicator of the Coolies increased consciousness and belief in the validity of a Coolie mass organisations.

In the beginning of our work 7½ years back the formation of the CSUs was just the “price they had to pay” in order to humour ADATS (for otherwise they would not avail the various services and facilities that ADATS had to offer them); the conception of the CCF has been a watershed in the development of the CSUs, in the lives of the Coolies.

It indicates a final breakaway the Coolies wish to make from the oppressive clutches of Middle Peasant credit structures in the villages, where interest rates range from over 350 percent per annum to bondage to Middle Peasant families, performing the most inhuman tasks, for generations. This village credit system is, however, the lifeblood of village survival. Once a Coolie is cut off from it, the possibility of his being able to continue living in that village are very remote. Coolies who identify issues and struggles against Middle Peasant domination are immediately “punished” by not being given hand loans, and the thought of this “punishment” is enough for a majority of them to abstain from active participation in the CSUs.

Institutional finance is no solution to this problem because the purpose for the loans vary from petty, unproductive, socio-cultural purposes to working capital to cultivate the odd patches of dry land that Coolies possess with out proper title, during the sporadic rains. Another reason for the incapacity of institutional finance to meet this requirement is the time factor. Very often the needs for money are urgent and have to be met in days, if not in hours. Once again the Middle Peasant is able to fit the boots of these requirements by always being available and not needing documentary proof of repayment capacity. Rural banking, however laudable in their recent efforts to reach the poor, is just not in a position to offer any serious threat to rural usury.

Apart from these very obvious and noble needs for Coolie Credit Funds, it is the Coolies faith in it that ADATS recognises as an outstanding achievement. That the Coolies feel, given an opportunity, they can build up alternate credit structures to counter the noxious result of the existing one in their villages. That they are not reacting to an offer made by ADATS to provide this new prototype, but have conceived the idea and planned its various details by themselves. That, in a word, the subjective conditions for the setting up of these CCFs are ready and ripe.

The Coolies did not approach us, asking that ADATS replace the Middle Peasants and in their place ADATS give out hand loans to them under more benevolent conditions. Instead, they approached ADATS for assistance to set up their own credit structure, controlled and managed by them collectively.

One last word to prove the complete validity of the foregoing. ADATS is working in 29 villages and the CCFs were started in 23 of them, 4 months back. In one village where the CSU was not properly developed, the CCF has already stopped. In another village where the Coolies are very hard working and sincere, but not convinced of mass organisation as being an answer to their problems, the CCF is staggering. In the remaining 21 villages, to quote a Coolie, “All the other projects of ADATS may falter, but not the CCF. This fund is ours!”

The CCF must not be seen as just another project undertaken by ADATS, but as the highest stage the Coolies have now reached in the development of their consciousness, political maturity, and mass organisation.