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It was in early 2000 or 2001. I was standing at a small shop in Indore. A person came at this shop and the shopkeeper – Naresh – gave him 5/- (INR 5). They talked for some time about next day – Sunday shop being closed, how are the kids doing, what is happening in general. Naresh gave him a small diary; visitor wrote something in that and went. That diary looked like old time bank passbook.

I asked Naresh what was that? Was that Hafta – That is “security money”? That money is paid unaccounted for to the local goons (as I knew it that time). Naresh smiled at my naivety. He said “no, its a bank for very small businessmen.” I had a question mark on face? “Does a bank come to you that too at 6PM or late?” I was not convinced. He said – “we cant leave our business and go to Bank, we are small people – lowest middle class if not lower class, many big banks wont take deposit from us as low as INR 5, that too daily. We surviving on small businesses dont have savings such that one day we will deposit huge sum. If money is with me, I will spend & sure on something worth its while. That way savings does not happen with us/me.” So, I said what is this guy doing, what is his business? Naresh told me – he is my school friend, he works with the banks, he comes and collects money. Generally, when we need money we tell him in advance he comes with some, gives it to us and makes entry in the passbook too.

Banking at that time was not something interesting to me – MBA & financial crisis made it interesting. I forgot to ask him the name of the bank also I was more interested in knowing that things were lawful e.g. No Hafta. I had almost forgotten this incident, but during my MBA and post MBA remembered these things specially in case of micro-finance. When I read about Sahara group – I felt that incident was related to Sahara group. In fact I wrote a blog on the same- Collective Materialism keeping that experience in mind and after reading something more about Sahara group.

Now, we hear negatively about Sahara group, sure there must be something wrong therefore Supreme Court of India and SEBI is behind Sahara group. Than recently I read Live Mint article – Is Sahara India’s Swiss bank? I was surprised and felt that yes, micro-finance is basically for people like Naresh; but who is stopping black money to be saved in this kind of banking system ? I am not sure, though. I support such initiatives in which marginalized people are empowered, and hope these initiatives will be lawful.

“Sahara” is a Hindi/Urdu word that means support. I am not giving the verdict, I am questioning myself – this ‘Sahara’ is for whom? Naresh – a small businessman – or for black money of the corrupts?

Check – Sahara Philosophy