Banita Tripura, a female entrepreneur from minor ethnic community who has been running an apparel store in Madhupur Bazar area of Khagrachhari, desired to expand her business by stocking more clothes with the assistance of bank loan before the last winter.
But when she approached to the local branches of commercial banks in the middle of the year, Banita found it extremely difficult to obtain loan facilities as she did not have any immovable property to keep mortgage with the bank.
Later, she contacted with a right activist named Sefali Tripura, head of Khagrapur Mahila Kalyan Samity, who finally managed to get her a loan of only Tk50,000.
Sefali, when contacted, told the Dhaka Tribune that despite the assurance of easier processing of credit, the bank authorities make the whole process very complex when it comes to granting loan for the ethnic people.
On top of that, after going through all these burdensome procedures, the amount that bank authorities usually grant barely helps an entrepreneur to move forward his/her business.
“Banita needed at least Tk2.5 lakh to expand her business and she applied for Tk5 lakh whereas she was only provided with Tk50,000.”
“If banks did not provide them with loans only for their identity then how these ethnic people would progress,” she asked.
Chanchana Chakma, convener of Bangladesh Indigenous Women Network, said bank authorities seek for land registration documents or guarantee from the shop owner before sanctioning a loan for business.
But it is hard for indigenous people to manage land registration documents as most of the hill tract lands are registered in the name of specific tribes, not in the name of individuals.
Moreover, most of the indigenous girls and women are engaged with the beauty parlour businesses in the cities across the country. These girls and women, when they wish to expand their business, often find it hard to manage a guarantee from the shop owners as the latter can barely rely on the stability of indigenous people.
As such, most of the indigenous women enterprises are nipped in the bud only due to the shortage of bank loans.
Chanchana pointed out that although 1.5% of the overall population is indigenous, only a handful of enterprises are run by the ethnic people because of the lack of financial support.
Condition of the plain land ethnic people is worse than that of the hill tract communities.
Sanjeeb Drong, general secretary of Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples’ Forum told the Dhaka Tribune that the ethnic people in plain lands hardly register their lands as they consider the land as their mother.
“So, one day they find that their land has been acquired by a government agency.”
“Easy loan procedure would help ethnic people to improve their daily lives; but nowadays getting bank loan has become something unimaginable for these people. As they still have to fight for the right of their own land, when will they think of taking loans from banks?”
Bangladesh Bank spokesperson Subhankar Saha, however, told the Dhaka Tribune that there are incentive packages available for ethnic people of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).
Commercial banks have been asked to provide agricultural loan to the ethnic farmers at only 2% interest rate.
About SME loan he said all the bank have been asked to provide 10% of their total loans to the women; and the indigenous women are also entitled to avail this loan.
“An ethnic woman can get maximum Tk20 lakh as bank loans if her husband guarantees the timely refund.”
“They will not need to provide any document for these loans to the banks,” Subhankar added.