Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The possible stories of Sonam Wangmo and those other unfortunate absconders.

The last few weeks may have been devoted to a case of one money lender and one money borrower.However, there are others also. One hears about similar situations and circumstances and at times also come across the real people involved. Neither the lenders nor the defaulters are indecent or irresponsible people. No money lender would want to end up in a Court and even more so no borrower would want to default or least of all deny financial obligations. Circumstances and situations gets out of hand. And we are imperfect human beings. So things happen without the intent to let these happen. 

In case of Sonam Wangmo though I do not know who she is, I do not expect Sonam Wangmo to have absconded if she had not issued those receipts. And  I do not think she will deny having issued those receipts.  From 2014 to 2016 she had all the luxury of time to appear before the Court.  And even her family if they really believed she did no such things as borrowing money and issueing receipts, they could have coaxed her to come. You may say anything outwardly but it is near impossible to believe that an innocent person would hide away from such an important life welfare impacting court case for so long. She had to know what has been happening here and her family has to be in contact with her. 

To humour those who still question, let me say aloud the answer you know to the question you raise.  That person is not going to deny that she issued the receipts.

I have talked to people in similar situations. They do not deny that they owe money. They just are unable to pay and they do not want to go to prison. They are not morally rotten  people who think they can get away with borrowed money. They abscond to buy time, hoping to find ways to repay loans and also avoid public shame and imprisonment. They are bankrupt money wise, not basic qualities of a human being. There is decency still remaining in their bones.  

Sonam Wangmo's mother and younger sister on one hand denies knowing what she had been doing and at the same time claims that she did not issue those  receceipts( I am referring to stories in public domain).  Their claim that she did not issue the receipts and their stand that she Sonam Wangmo kept them in the dark about what she was doing just do not mingle well.

By the way, banking in Bhutan started only in the 1960s. Private money  lending was and still is very much part of Bhutanese economy though to a much lesser extent now. Private lending is not illegal. Those who do not have bank acceptable mortgage usually seek loan from private sources. And those who have plots in urban area or buildings go to Banks to get loan. Definitely they will not seek high interest loan from private sources. Banks charge less than 15 % interest annually whilst minimum charge from money lender maybe 36%.

So people with quality assets go to private source only for two reasons: a) they have exhausted loan facility from banks on their mortgage and b) The loan maybe for illegal activity like gold smuggling or gambling.  Also quite often people try to pay of financial institution loans on constructions through other means. They are caught between two hard rocks. The rent from building they worked so hard to  construct does not meet repayment instalment. We are not supposed to but we do construct the whole building with loans and that pushes loan capital up and the interest charge  though far,  far lower than that of private lenders, comes to substantial amount because the loan capital is huge. And unforseen delays during construction period adds on liability burdens.

I feel sorry for people like Sonam Wangmo. They must have tried  hard to achieve success for themselves and their family  but may have lacked financial discipline or  just got  unlucky.  Some of them lead  high life styles and they are also generous with family members and friends with the money at hand. And when they go bust, those parasites condemn them instead of showing support and understanding.  Thus in desperation and partly to avoid public shame and other consequences like imprisonment, they leave the country. 

But it is not possible to make past disappear and worse life of an absconder in another country, another strange environment must be very lonely and difficult. A kind of open prison. They would want to come back and unlike some family members they would want to keep their side of the bargain with the money lender if at all possible. I pray that the Courts are lenient in some ways if absconders  return. 

I do not condemn Sonam Wangmo. Circumstances must have caught up and her plans may have gone astray at some point of life. But the way she had borrowed money from two banks and other private people shows she was doing something intensely. I wonder if it was she who was the responsible family member constructing the buildings for which loans were availed. Very often the plots may be purchased during parents' time but it is one of the elder capable child that takes up the onerous task of developing it. House construction is a very tedious task evem if you have money in hand. It ages you considerably. 

In Sonam Wangmo's case, maybe she had to be the field active member. That could be the reason why she was the joint owner along with her mother.  Her father had died earlier ( Shacha Wangmo states they were brought up by a single mother). If the buildings were constructed by the mother or by the late father, the property would be only in the mother's name or all three  ( The mother and two daughters). The fact that Sonam Wangmo is a joint owner along with the mother points to the fact that she was the active one who did the actual work among family members.  And most probably she was given the power of attorney to carry out necessary transactions with banks.

For all such people now in dire  situations  and their family members and  money lenders, I would appeal for support and understanding among themselves. Work out an arrangement so that such absconders  can come back. Money lenders cannot be expected to run at loss because they too would  have financial obligations to banks and others. But it should be possible to reach arrangements  whereby the money lenders  recover gradually over a respectable time period  a substantial part of their investment and the borrowers can avoid prison terms. There is a Bhutanese saying in regards to loans (you cannot run away from an arrow stuck on your back). Loans must be paid back sooner or later. Such ingrained sense of social and financial responsibility helped to maintain order and harmony of traditional community life. .

Integrity was never the monopoly of the rich or the educated or the intelligent. You can be poor and uneducated  but still  rich in integrity and have pride in meeting committed obligation. It is not at all advisable for family members and colleagues to attempt to walk off the loan repayment obligations by gambling upon publicity stunts or performing high social media drama of accusing and maligning all else. In the end those absconding family members who are the  actual borrowers and bears responsibility for repayment are made to suffer more than ever by such facades. Do not create a social or legal environment that makes it more difficult for absconders to ever return to the country and the society that they would want to return to.

1 comment:

  1. wangmo...is it Chinese surname? or bhutan, Tibetian people?