Loan sharks prey on shop owners

Shopkeepers at Manish Market and Sara Sahara allege that moneylenders are extorting more money from them, as they no longer have written proof of their financial transactions

If losing their livelihoods wasn't enough, now shop owners from Manish Market and Sara Sahara Mall have another problem on their hands.

Turned to ashes: Fire officials and shop owners rummage through the
debris to see if they can find anything worth salvaging. Crinkled metal
rods, crumbling structures and charred goods are all that one can see
at the spot where the sprawling market stood tall till two days ago

At a time when owners are trying to pick up the pieces after a major fire gutted more than 2,000 shops and caused losses of more than Rs 2,000 crore on Saturday, owners are complaining of opportunistic money lenders, who are extorting more money from them.

Explaining the situation, Mohammed Arif, an aggrieved  shop owner, said, "We made daily entries of all our financial transactions in our account books that were always kept in the shops. But owing to the fire, all our accounts have been reduced to ashes.

"Seeing this situation, moneylenders and other parties from whom we have borrowed money in the past are taking advantage and fudging their accounts and demanding more money from us and without our books we have no proof to say otherwise."

Residents and shop owners shift goods and other belongings from the
markets in an attempt to restart their lives. pics/bipin Kokate

Complaining of the same condition, another shopowner Lalit Mali said, "All our transactions were recorded in account books that were always kept in the shop. However, the fire has reduced all our efforts and work to cinder and owing to that we have lost all our accounts. This very weakness is being exploited by the money lenders, who are demanding more money from us."

And the air of helplessness surrounded the market as most shop owners complained of the same predicament.

"We have lost our daily bread and butter. We haven't even come out of the shock of the fire that has not only gutted our shops but also our lives, and these money lenders have started to exploit us, knowing very well that we have no written account to prove them wrong," said Taufiq Ahmed.

Meanwhile, fire officials and owners tried to sift through the debris trying to salvage all that they could after officials doused the final flames on Sunday afternoon.

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