Pathans hailing from North West Frontier Province (now in Pakistan) and southern parts of Afghanistan but settled in Mumbai are a worried about their future after their business has suffered a major setback. They are engaged in money-lending business and had a big clientele among the labourers of the Mumbai Port Trust, who used to work in the docks area. These labourers used to borrow lumpsum amount from the Pathans.
The workers who slogged at Various Docks of Mumbai, after their job timings had to repay their loan in instalments to the lenders, who were mainly Pathans. They were ruthless in their ways of extracting money from their borrowers. Moreover most of the time this money in not lent without mortgage. The borrower has to keep something as mortgage, or borrower’s service papers. Before giving money, Khans record each and every detail of borrowers and contact them by any means if they try to flee.
Mohammad Pathan, a resident near Port Trust Mumbai, while talking to AV said that there are a few new borrowers and he has been lending only to the old clients who have been borrowing money from him for many years. He said, “There are a few new borrowers as they have many different ways of earning money and the rate of interest the Pathans charge has also increased from 10 per cent monthly to 15 per cent monthly,”.
As per the government rules and regulations, the rate of interest should roughly come to around 18 per cent annually, whereas the Pathans charge close to the government’s rate of interest per month, thereby squeezing a borrower and his family members.
“Under Islam, it is forbidden to either take or receive interest but, the Pathans have justified their moneylending activities by framing their own rules for business. However, they strictly follow Islam in all other activities, including abstention from alcohol consumption” a Pathan money lender said.
MbPT workers of the class 4 category have discovered a new way of earning a ‘side’ income. They do so by appearing as guarantors for under trials who are in need of guarantors and sureties. One such employee, Tukaram (name changed), a cleaner with MbPT, appears as a surety for an accused in a criminal case who comes to him through a broker or an agent. Tukaram has appeared for many accused in the last few years.
Some of the Pathans in the money-lending business possess money-lending licences but the majority of them operate without licences and resort to forcible recovery using influence—and occasionally even money power. In some cases the Pathans are known to forcibly take signatures of borrowers on blank papers and cheques. They also forcibly take over the property of the borrowers if a loan remains unpaid for a long period of time.
In the recent past, due to open market revenue and other available options, the money-lending Pathan’s businesses are almost bankrupt. Some of them have switched to get sections of tendering for various approvals by liasoning in Docks for generating lucrative income. The port trust workers too have entered into new business of various dealings.