The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions

2011 August 6
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We were so deeply in debt. 

I knocked on many doors, but none opened. We have no one whom we could call our own. I wondered whether there was really a God.

I decided to end my life.

That day you lent a helping hand. My three children still have their mother because of you.

I do not know how to thank you.

The writer is a palliative care volunteer, the wife of a bed-bound man with Motor Neuron Disease. But what made the woman turn to thoughts of suicide was not the disease, or the disease-related suffering of the family. It was a debt-trap.

They were managing to live in their ramshackle hut when the local self-Government institution (the Panchayat) gave them a grant for building a proper house. As almost invariably happens, the construction costs escalated way out of the budget. There seems to be no way they can get out of the trap; and they now will lose not only the new unfinished home, but also whatever they already had. How will they live?

Our organization cannot afford to pay off debts incurred by our patients and families. But here was a desperate situation and a few of us delved into our own not-so-full pockets and raised some money to tide them over the immediate threat of eviction.

This is just one of so many families who are in this plight, for whom financial aid or loans from the Government simply open the door to a deep financial chasm.

The improving financial position of local self-government institutions in India causes this paradoxical suffering all too often.

There is not enough social research to identify the elements of the problem and to seek solutions. Indiscriminate aid so often worsens the situation.

We MUST together find a solution.

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