Thiruvananthapuram: A court sentencing a man found guilty of a crime is just the milder half of the punishment. The harsher one comes later, inflicted not on the criminal but on his wife and kids. And this sentence is delivered not by courts, but by banks.
In spite of repeated government pleas, national and private banks in the state have been denying financial assistance to hundreds of destitute wives of prisoners. In more than 95 percent of the cases, these women have no part in the crime of their husbands and are desperate to rebuild their lives after the stigma that comes with the conviction of their husbands.
The banks argue that these women are defaulters but top Social Justice Department officials are surprised at the defaulter theory. How can these helpless women default when they have been comprehensively blacked out of institutional finance? Not a single indigent wife of a convict has received assistance under the Scheme for the Rehabilitation of the Dependents of Indigent Convicts in the last 15 years. The banks continue to be intransigent even though the state had promised to pay back 30 percent of the loan amount.
“The only way these women, mostly poor and illiterate, can progress in life is to begin some income-generating activity. But strangely, the banks have refused to cooperate,” a top social justice official said.
The scheme is limited to the very poor, to the dependents of a convict who had an annual income of less than Rs 24,000. Probation officers who had visited such families testify to their miserable state.
“In a number of cases we have seen the mother and children huddled up inside a flimsy canvas shack on poramboke land,” said Subair, a senior probation officer. “The family is ostracized by the society. The children are the worst sufferers, their education put on hold and their self-esteem forever scarred. They could do with some help,” he added....