India

Gold turns Sanjeevani for COVID-hit families in Telangana

Soaring medical costs have forced thousands to pledge jewellery at exorbitant rates

Jyothi, a 35-year-old homemaker from Old Alwal couldn't pull herself together when doctors at a private hospital asked for ₹1.2 lakh to treat her COVID positive husband.

She found herself helpless with no savings from the meagre income of her husband, an autorickshaw driver. The amount was needed urgently for three doses of Remedesivir, which the doctors said each would cost at least ₹30,000. The hapless lady had no option but to pledge her mangalsutra (wedding necklace) and the little gold she had.

“I was crying all the way to the nearby pawnbroker who said he would give only ₹1 lakh at an interest of 2.5% a month. I pleaded with him to give ₹1.20 lakh, but he reiterated his terms and refused to relent,” said Ms. Jyothi, fighting back tears when contacted by The Hindu.

Fortunately for her husband, Madhusudhan Chary, two of his autorickshaw friends whom he had helped earlier, pitched in with ₹20,000, despite their financial constraints.

Having exhausted all her resources, Ms. Jyothi is now dependent on help from friends and relatives as she nurses her husband back to health.

Ms. Jyothi is not alone in being faced with a financial crisis due to the pandemic, which has hit several thousand families. For these desperate families, who have no other source, gold has become the mythical Sanjeevani (panacea) to raise the much-needed funds for medical treatment.

Similar is the story of Yalamanchili Ramu (name changed) from Gayathri Hill who sold 30 tola (one tola equals 10 grams) of family jewellery for the treatment of his mother, daughter and himself who were admitted to a corporate hospital in Secunderabad. After a week, Ramu ran out of cash and had left with no other option but to dispose of the gold. “Selling land is a long process which might take months or at least weeks and gold has come to the rescue of my family. We paid more than ₹10 lakh for treatment of three persons,” he said.

Enquiries with pawnbrokers and gold loan companies reveal there is a steady footfall of desperate people to pledge their gold ornaments.

“Yes, for the past one month there is a steady increase of people who are pledging gold ornaments for treatment. When they say they want money for treatment, I’m giving money at a very low rate of interest,” said a jeweller from Secunderabad.

On Thursday, Kavitha, a nurse from Regimental Bazaar pledged two tola of gold jewellery with this jeweller to support her relatives, who helped with her husband’s treatment a few years ago.

When contacted, a representative of a leading gold loan company said they were offering gold loans for 14% interest per annum, and the interest rate varies if the loan amount is huge.

“If the loan amount is more than ₹5 lakh, we offer a interest of 12%, and one has to renew the loan within 12 months to avoid auction of their gold,” he said.

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