A few years ago, I met Anjali – a Mumbai girl who had a Diploma in pharmaceutical engineering. Anjali lent her certificate to a local chemist (who didn’t study beyond 7th grade) who ran a drugstore and paid Anjali a monthly rent. At that time I thought it was the oddest way to make money.
I don’t believe that, not any more. Because, I have just learnt of a stranger way of earning a rental: lending your names, to be precise.
Incredible, did you say? Well then, visit Aizawl, capital town in Mizarom state in north east India. Ask the pastor of any local Presbyterian Church if he knows of name lending and he will tell you how the business is thriving.
''By lending our names to non-tribals, we are draining our economy for the benefit of outsiders,'' says a recent communiqué of the church’s social front.
But what is this name lending business really?
Well, according to the government rules, its difficult for people from outsiders –especially non-tribal, non-Mizos, to buy properties; they are subject to several regulations. So, the locals – nearly 300 of them – are lending their names the outsiders -to get trade licenses. With the licenses, the outsiders run their business smoothly, while the real owners of the names earn between Rs 3,000 to Rs 10,000 monthly.
Now, if everyone is a winner, who’s the loser? The government of course! The traders evade income tax as they are disguised as Mizo tribals who are exempted from the income tax.
The business had a smooth run for years, is now under fire as the Young Mizo Association, the state’s biggest -and extremely powerful - NGO decided to crack the whip on it. The NGO is currently running a campaign against such illegal traders and requested the church to back it up.
So, will the combined force of the church and the NGO be able to finish the name lending business? At this point, there seems to be hope.
But there remains a doubt: what if the business idea catches up elsewhere, luring another tribal community into this trap? After all, there seems to be quite a lot in the name!