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Viraam: विराम (Arthvyavastha - Part IV)

Continued from here (Vinimay: Arthvyavastha - Part III)

When Saakshaat informed Aanglesh that his father Seth Pramanikji would also accompany Pramukhji, colour drained from Aanglesh's face. Aanglesh told Saakshaat that his father was a staunch disciple of Pramukhji and was as much in doubt of the tamrapatrak schemes as Pramukhji himself.

This was a jolt to Saaskshaat, he had never expected that Pramanikji, a trader himself and whose son was the first and the largest beneficiary of the tamrapatrak vyvastha would be against the novel concept. He had expected Pramanikji's presence to bolster their position, but now on the contrary he felt even more vulnerable.

Saakshaat and Aanglesh had spent the whole night preparing for meeting Pramukhji and Pramanikji. They talked to Anugam about any positives of tamrapatraks which he could identify to impress the village elders with. Anugam mentioned that the tamrapatrak scheme had benefited the society in two major ways - first that because now traders were accountable to their tamraptrakdhari's (shareholders) rather than themselves and their families alone, they had become more responsible and followed best possible business practices to look good to newer investors; so much so that Arthvyaap traders were considered one of the most efficient businessesmen in the prantiya bazaar (regional markets).

The second improvement due to tamrapatraks was in life of poor people who earlier had no means to 'save' money and had to often borrow in time of need from the village sahukaars by pawning their family silver; now people just have to surrender their tamrapatrak's to meet their short term cash needs. Both these were good points and Saakshaat was quite sure the second point would make the elders re-consider any designs of shutting down the tamprapatrak scheme.

In the morning when Aanglesh woke up, his mother informed him that his father had already left to meet Pramukhji early in the morning. Already startled, Aanglesh considered this as bad omen - he feared they would get late for the meeting giving the elders another chance to point out how irresponsible they were thus pitting them at a disadvantage to begin with. The urgency got the best out of him and he was ready before Saakshaat shouted for him.

As they walked towards the Panchayat bhavan where the meeting was scheduled, silence was possibly the only form of communication between them. Aanglesh wanted to chit-chat but he knew better; during schooldays Saakshaat preferred not talking to anyone on exam days until he finished his exam. And today as Kalpakji greeted them at the door of the Panchayat Bhavan, the exam analogy playing on Aanglesh's mind completed a full circle.

They both bowed in front of Kalpakji and touched his feet and were quite relieved hearing their teacher's friendly voice pronouncing the aashirwad "Sukhi Bhava" (Remain Happy). As they entered the room, Pramukhji and Pramanikji were seated on the aasan (आसन, Seat) and there were two placed right in front of them and one on their side. Kalpakji guided them to the two aasans and himself sat on the side of Pramukhji. They both first bowed to touch Pramukhji and Pramanikji's feet and then took their place.

Pramukhji had the ever present smile on his face, but he looked his age now and his demeanor was a little tired.  Pramanikji on the other hand was stiff as he mostly was with doubts clouding his face. Kalpakji was the only one who seemed at ease in the setting.

"Sorry, we got a little late" hesitated Aanglesh. "No no! You aren't late at all", interrupted Kalpakji sportively, "In fact we are starting before the appointed hour". Pramukhji cleared his throat indicating the start of business and said - "Yes, Kalpakji is right; I had requested Pramanikji to meet me early today before our meeting ..."

After a brief pause he continued - "So boys, I am glad that you both have proved your credentials and ability to usher transformation of our society. While I was skeptical of your tamraptrak scheme succeeding in the first place, the last 4 years have melted away my doubts." Saakshaat;s confidence grew manifold as Pramukhji lauded the scheme, little did he know that it would be deflated the very next moment. "However, as Kalpakji informs me" Pramukhji continued, briefly looking towards Kalpakji, "that you both have yourself realized that future of this scheme is filled with complexity and risks for you as individuals and the Arthvyaap society at large.

"The scheme has run well with minimum supervision from the village elders and the panchayat, but firstly it still faces the ire of many from our generation of not being seen as a legitimate way of making money and secondly it has come to my notice; the details of which Kalpakji can explain to you later; that some clever minded people have already started exploiting your scheme to their benefit. It is to this purpose that I had invited Pramanikji to meet me earlier so that we could discuss some of these issues before you arrived

"Before I handover to Pramanikji, I must confide in you that I have grown old and as per customs of our village, I will formally announce my successor in the next mahapanchayat due next week. While the official word for the next nomination by the mahapanchayat can only be out later, I have already conveyed my plan to propose Pramanikji as my successor to the panchayat and until now there are no other nominations. Which is why Pramanikji is present in this meeting not only as a panch responsible for financial matters but also as the possibly someone who will own the decisions of today's meeting in the forthcoming years as the Pramukh. Needless to say, this piece of information is not to leave the two of you until the result is announced next week in the Mahapanchayat. Pramanikji - over to you."

Seth Pramanik tilted forward from his position straightening his back - "सज्जनों (Sajjanon meaning Gentlemen)!". The address made Aanglesh jump in his seat; the news that his father was about to take over as the Pramukh made him both happy and skeptical as he knew his father was an extremely old-fashioned trader and had never taken his newfangled ideas of tamrapatrak seriously. But most importantly, he had always addressed him as well as Sakshaat who was his childhood buddy as बच्चों (Children or Boys); the term Sajjanon was reserved for elderly middle aged traders who came to him for advice.

Pramanikji continued - "News has been filtering to our ears through the rajpurohitji's office as well as through some traders and other villagers that while tamrapatrak scheme has largely benefited us, there are many hidden dangers lurking behind. To name a few, we have heard of people using tamrapatrak's as security to borrow money from others. This in my opinion is very dangerous as I have no clue how to value your tamrapatrraks and so how much money can be lent against them. This is not only exposing the lender to inordinate risk, but even the borrower risks falling into a trap. All this, provided I ignore the fact that money lending on the basis of tamrapatrak has no legal validity as per the rajakiya ( राजकीय or Royal) laws or the panchayat.

"There is another similar case - it has come to our notice that while tamrapatrak's can only be issued and sold by traders themselves, some people have started buying and selling tamrapatrak's among themselves. This is really peculiar to me as to why someone would buy tamrapatrak from anyone other than the trader themselves. To add to all these problems are cases where people have reported forged tamrapatraks and stolen tamrapatraks leading to direct financial losses.

"This makes me extremely wary of the whole tamrapatrak business, and had it not been for the collective will of the panchayat, I would have ordered an immediate dissolution to the whole tamrapatrak business. But thankfully for you, I need to present my case to the panchayat and since the new panchayat will be elected in the next mahapanchayat of the village, any meaningful business will only take place in 15 days post the mahapanchayat. Also, if I myself happen to get appointed as the Pramukh Sarpanch by the mahapanchayat, I will no more be able to present to the panchayat, but would possibly have to sit in the deciding position and hear facts from a new panch nominated for financial matters."

"I am still tempted to call for an emergency meeting of the panchayat and issue an immediate stop on the tamrapatrak scheme for the intermediate period until the next panchayat meets in a fortnight. But, both Pramukhji and Kalpakji are of the view that this will create a lot of confusion among people. Hence, the matter will hang in balance on the tamrapatrak scheme until the next panchayat, 3 weeks later. I have requested Kalpakji to help you prepare your case to the panchayat."

With that final remark, Pramanikji was silent and Pramukhji rose from his seat, hinting that the meeting was over.

Read the next part Vishram: विश्राम (Arthvyavastha - Part V) here.

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