Back in 2010, my dad decided he wanted to help people near his hometown of Shujalpur located in Madhya Pradesh with interest-free loans. I know it’s shocking that a Marwari would give interest-free loans, there must be a catch. There was a catch, my dad wanted to teach them disciple and commitment with something as basic as a loan. And of course, in the process help them upgrade their livelihood and just be around to help them.
Below is a video clip where they interview my dad and one of the people he was helping.
In 2020, he decided it was time to retire from his NGO work…it was a combination of his age, the pandemic, and the general apathy of the people he was helping.
In 2010, ShantiSeva started with funding five projects in one village – Ugaah. Initially, the interest-free loans were between Rs. 5,000 to Rs 10,000 and to be paid in 10 to 20 months. Why 10 and 20 and not 12 and 24 months? It was easier for everyone to do the quick math of what the monthly repayment was. In total, ShantiSeva financed about Rs. 5,00,000 in loans. The maximum loan amount was Rs. 50,000.
In 10 years, 60 projects were funded and 50% of the projects were started by women. All of the projects were spread across five villages – Akthyarpur, Jhadla, Kishoni, Tapka Basantpur, and Ugaah. The projects were as diverse as sewing machines, dairy cow, kirana store, tea stall, centering equipment for construction, sub-contract work for garment work, disposable plates and bowls from leaves, selling fruit and vegetables on a cycle, and electric motor rewinding.
I asked my dad to breakdown the 60 people and provide a summary:
- 3 people really benefited. Their income grew 10x-15x.
- 20 people made a decent living
- 10 were doing okay
- 27 people used the money to probably pay off other loans and many failed to pay back the loan
And that summary, is the reason my dad decided to end his journey of running ShantiSeva. It seemed no matter what he did to get people to enhance their livelihood many were just not that interested. 5% of the people seemed to care and even those 3 people NEVER paid their loan on time…which was whole point of the exercise to instill some level of disciple and commitment into them.
On the upside, my dad was able to meet all types of people near his village and get to hear their stories and in some small way give back to society. Also, it forced my dad to write 90 blog posts about ShantiSeva and the people he was helping,