A distressed Vanisha was slowly picking up the pieces of her life – and had joined coaching classes to prepare for the IIT-JEE exams – when the loan recall notices landed at her doorstep.
Vanisha said she had always focused on her studies, and that was all she wanted to do, so she could fulfil her parents' dreams.
Vanisha's father Jeetendra, who was an agent of the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), had taken a loan of Rs 30 lakh from his office. After his untimely demise, the LIC blocked all the savings and commissions that Jeetendra was entitled to – which would ideally have gone to Vanisha and her brother had they been adults. As per policy, the minor children could not access their father's commissions, depriving them of any funds.
And then came the legal notices. The first set of legal notices for loan repayment didn't reach them. The second set of notices was dropped at a neighbour's house in February 2022 – that's how Vanisha and her family found out.
The notices accessed by The Quint demanded the recall of the amounts of Rs 17,33,810 and Rs 11,95,222 in a week's time.
"My father gave his life to this company when he was alive. It was quite a shock to receive such recall notices from the LIC."Vanisha Pathak
In response, Vanisha wrote to the LIC in February 2022, explaining that she was a minor and that she needed more time to repay the loan.
Her letter reads:
"Both my father and mother passed away due to COVID-19 in May 2021. My 11-year-old brother Vivan and I are minors and COVID orphans. As we are both underage, all my father's policies and his monthly commissions could not be withdrawn... With all of the economic and financial income sources blocked, we have no source of income. Thus, all the repayment of the debts can be done only when I turn 18."
However, Vanisha, who received the last notice in February 2022, said there has been no response so far to her pleas seeking relief.
Vanisha is currently living under the care of her maternal uncle Ashok Sharma, who is a professor.
Speaking to The Quint, Sharma said that he was trying his best to take care of the children, but was worried about repaying the debts.
"I am somehow managing the upbringing of the children, but I do not have the resources to repay such a huge loan. Jeetendra was a big-league LIC agent, and we had thought that the company would reciprocate our pleas."Ashok Sharma
Vanisha's maternal aunt Bhavana Sharma said that the children were "deeply impacted" by this crisis.
"I can say that both the children are worried about what might happen tomorrow. After receiving the notices, Vanisha's education has definitely taken a hit, because at the end of the day, she is a child after all. She gets troubled by these things."Bhavana Sharma
'Won't Send Notices Till She Is 18,' Say LIC Officials, but Family Unsure
Officials posted at the LIC's Bhopal office said they had forwarded Vanisha's applications to the central office.
"Vanisha's uncle sent us an application and we have forwarded it to the higher authorities. We had informed the family that they will not get any further notices until Vanisha turns 18. No notice has been sent after 10 February 2022, and there won't be any till 31 January 2023," a senior officer of the LIC's Bhopal office told The Quint.
After the matter grabbed media attention, the teen received a letter dated 11 April 2022 on 6 June 2022, stating that the LIC will not initiate any legal proceedings.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has also taken cognisance of the issue, asking the LIC to look into it.
But that doesn't solve Vanisha's woes.
"The letter does say that they have not initiated any legal action, but my concern is, where will I get the money to repay the loan after I turn 18? Should I focus on my studies and try to build a life or start working somewhere to pay off the loan," she asked.
"We were hoping for a waiver," Prof Sharma added. But so far, there has been no such intimation from the company.