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Bihar Auto Rickshaw Driver Ends Life, Family Alleges Harassment by Private Finance to Repay Loan

The auto rickshaw had been unable to repay the loan after failing to earn during the months of the pandemic-induced lockdown.
Bihar Auto Rickshaw Driver Ends Life, Family Alleges Harassment by Private Finance to Repay Loan

Representational Image. Image Courtesy: New Indian Express

Patna: A young auto rickshaw driver, who was facing financial crunch after being unable to earn during lockdown and under tremendous pressure to repay a loan to a private finance company, has died by suicide in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district. The finance company was allegedly harassing the driver for the repayment of loan.

Sujit Kumar Sahani, a resident of Sikandarpur, had purchased an auto rickshaw by taking a loan from Hinduja Leyland Finance Ltd, a few days before the lockdown was imposed. However, with the imposition of the nationwide lockdown due to the pandemic, he failed to earn anything for several months and thus could not repay the Equated Monthly Installments of Rs 14,000 for three months.

Following this, officials of Hinduja Leyland Finance Ltd forcibly seized Sahani’s auto rickshaw on November 24 when he was on way to his residence. The incident left him shocked and depressed as it was the sole source of livelihood for him and his family of six.

“My husband was under pressure due to repeated harassment by the finance company to repay his loan. He requested the finance company to provide him some time to repay loan but the company refused and finally seized the auto rickshaw. It depressed him badly and he ended his life leaving us to fight for survival,” Sahani’s wife told NewsClick.

She went on to add that her husband was happy and very excited on March 17, 2020, when he bought the new auto rickshaw with the help of the loan, but it was shortlived as the lockdown was unilaterally just a week later. “During the lockdown till June, he did not earn a penny and his EMI increased manifold,” the wife claimed.

Sahani’s family has lodged an FIR in Sadar Police Station in Muzaffarpur against the finance company and police have begun an investigation into the complaint case.

A neighbour of Sahani said visibly upset for over a month as the finance company was pressuring him to repay the loan time and again, but he was unable to get any help.

Also read: Bihar Elections: Why Jobs Have Become the Key Issue

Notably, this is not an isolated case. Similar cases have been reported across Bihar in the last six months that over a dozen people facing financial crunch due to lockdown have died by suicide after being allegedly harassed by private finance company or moneylenders to repay loan or credit.

After the sudden lockdown, millions of skilled and unskilled workers, drivers, vendors were rendered jobless or without any work as per official figures.

In Bihar, rampant joblessness after the lockdown has created a big challenge. More than 21 lakh migrant workers returned to the state during the lockdown as per officual data.

According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy’s estimates, for the past 20 months – since February 2019 – the unemployment rate in Bihar has been more than 10%. It is one of the longest cycles of unemployment that the state has ever seen.

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