The AntiSARFAESI Struggle in Kerala got the support of media, political parties and society recently due to the protest of Preetha Shaji, a house wife, in Kochi against HDFC Bank's action to attach her house and land.
[The Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest (SARFAESI)Act (2002) gives banks and financial institutions the autonomy to recover loans from defaulters, without assistance or interference from the court.]
Shaji acted as surety, providing his property as proof, for his friend for a loan of 2 lakh from Lord Krishna Bank in 1994. Sajan, the friend didn't repay the loan. Troubled, Shaji tried to pay half of the amount (1 lakh) by selling his property. Even then Sajan didnt repay the rest. Lord Krishna Bank had then merged with the Centurion Bank and later with HDFC Bank. 23 years after the loan was sanctioned, the bank came knocking on Preetha and Shajis door, with arrears of the unpaid amount that has now grown to a much larger amount of 2 crores. Meanwhile, the Debt Recovery Tribunal ordered that their house be attached.
It was when Preetha Shaji came across the People's Human Rights Movement. On their advice, she began a strike in 2017. However, their house was put for sale via an online auction without their knowledge. The remaining eighteenandahalf cents of land were sold for Rs 37 lakh. This land is in the centre of the city, where even one cent could nearly fetch that amount.
The three attachment attempts by the HDFC bank officials were made futile by the protesters. Cases has been lodged against many. The tribunal official, who is the recovery officer then, is now undergoing a vigilance enquiry on accusations of bribery and curruption. In the last few months a number of cases of attachment under SARFAESI Act was came into the mainstream. All the victims were either individuals or Small or Medium Entreprises (SMEs) who took small loans, could'nt repay and got forced attached by private banks. One such case of the Cashew Industries came into light in February 2018. The AntiSARFAESI struggle thus gained momentum and became a fight against the (draconian!) SARFAESI Act.