Despite usury, the practice of lending money at exorbitant rates of interest, being illegal in Tamil Nadu, a 38-year-old woman killed herself in Dharmapuri on Wednesday allegedly following continuous torture by a moneylender.
Mythili, who lived in Anna Nagar with her two children, ran an iron scrap shop in Dharmapuri. She had borrowed Rs 10,000 months ago for business purposes from Palani who worked as a cook in a restaurant in the same town. According to the police, Mythili had not paid the interest for the loan for the past two months due to health issues, which led Palani to force her to enroll in a rotating chit fund scheme with one of his acquaintances for Rs 1,00,000. Palani also allegedly took Rs 80,000 from Mythiliâ€™s chit fund against his loan to her. Despite getting back more than what Mythili had borrowed from him, Palani reportedly continued asking her for interest payment and allegedly abused her in obscene language.
â€śStressed by the abuse and the pressure put by Palani, Mythili went to her parents' house in Teacherâ€™s colony on Wednesday night and killed herself. It was her mother who discovered her dead body and alerted the police,â€ť a police officer told TNM.
The body was immediately sent to the Dharmapuri Government Hospital for autopsy and was later handed over to the family. The police also arrested Palani and remanded him to judicial custody. He has been booked under section 306 (abetment of suicide) of the IPC read with section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Charging Exorbitant Interest Act, 2003, which specifies a punishment of imprisonment of up to three years and a fine of up to Rs 30,000.
Commenting on the arrest of such moneylenders, advocate Sudha Ramalingam told TNM that the people lack the awareness of the existence of a law against usury. â€śThe people donâ€™t know that there is an Act enacted by the state government against exorbitant interest rates charged by moneylenders. There are gaps in implementation also since usury, in most cases, does not have a paper trail. So when there is no documentary evidence for transactions, it becomes difficult to get conviction in such cases,â€ť she added.
Henri Tiphagne, a lawyer and Human Rights Activist, blamed the lax in implementation of the law against usury on the government. "When such a case arises, the district administration and the police do not take it up urgently. This leads to people taking advantage of the law and such practices thrive despite being prohibited. We must focus on implementation and give due importance to deaths arising out of it," he added.