Need a hassle-free loan? “Lath-maar bank” might just be the ticket for you. Visit any of a dozen of villages deep inside Madhya Pradesh’s Datia district — but on specific days — and wait in the morning for the gong to sound.
The mystery “bank”, which has been helping poor farmers for over 50 years, has no office. Its representatives — middle-aged men all — visit the villages once a month on motorcycles. And their identity card? Red books with notings in Urdu.
“Nobody knows who they are, nor do we ask,” said Raghuveer, a resident of Dariyavpur village, where they come on the 14th of every month. “We call them the Lucknow-wale sahukaar (lenders from Lucknow) as they are originally from Lucknow. Earlier, they used to carry lathis (sticks), so the bank came to be known as lath-maar bank.”
What has endeared the lenders to the farmers is their humane approach — no documents, no mortgages, no pressure to return money.
Though the interest charged is 30% — exorbitant by the standards of regular banks — a person unable to repay the loan is merely blacklisted. “All they require is a guarantor,” said Dariyavpur sarpanch Hukum Dev.
“The lath-maar bank lends money to those whom nobody helps,” added Kallu, a villager.