West Kochiites bemoan financial exclusion

Banks deny loans to people, branding the region as a ‘land of fraudsters’

Just over a year ago, Preveesh Prakash, a 27-year-old from Mattancherry, went to buy a laptop in the city.

His CIBIL rating and documents, including IT returns, were in order, and sanctioning of a loan by a non-banking financial institution all but looked a mere formality. But as soon as he shared his address and the pin code (682002) popped up, the loan was denied flatly.

“They would just say that lending to people from our area was considered ‘risky’ as if ours is a land of fraudsters. It was outright humiliation,” said Mr. Prakash who went on to buy the laptop for ready cash of ₹35,000 to prove a point. Shanu, a businessman, had a similar experience when he went to buy an air conditioner and eventually bought it on liquid cash.

But not all could afford to react in the same way. When a new-generation bank denied him a two-wheeler loan on similar grounds, K.H. Haneesh, a private company employee from Chullikkal, had no alternative but to pledge his wife’s gold ornaments. “A stereotyped image of West Kochi, especially areas on the other side of the Thoppumpady bridge, as a land of financial frauds and goons is being propagated over different mediums. Being denied the right for financial assistance, people here are being pushed towards money lenders,” he fumed.

A senior functionary of the All India Bank Employees Association confided that there was indeed such negation of financial assistance to people from West Kochi and even coastal areas like Vypeen, mainly by new-generation banks and non-banking financial institutions. “They [banks] might have had some bad experience of defaults in payment of credit card dues and personal loans in the past, long before the advent of CIBIL rating. But to deny financial service to an entire people based on that past perception is a denial of natural justice,” he observed.

However, a young Left-leaning youngster contesting the forthcoming local body polls refused to entirely blame the financial sector players for the unfair treatment, attributing it, instead, for good measure to unscrupulous actions by not so small sections from certain areas in West Kochi. “If 60 people out of 100 do something wrong, the rest of the 40 will also end up suffering,” he said on condition of anonymity.

Jacob Joju, chairman of Stand Up for Kochi, pegged this financial exclusion as part of the progressive usurping of a place of its legacy while creating around it the hollow aura of a heritage town.

“Ours was the original Kochi, but now, it has been reduced to mere West Kochi. We had lost our physical assets from airport and railway station to seaport and KSRTC bus stand over the years, and now, the intangible asset of financial integrity as well, which is the handiwork of financial corporates,” he said.

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