Balachandran Selvaratnam was given a 16-year jail sentence for possession of drugs.
He was released in June 2009 after 11 years, on good behaviour. He went into the prison at the age of 29, never watched his daughter grow up and when he was released, he was 40.
In prison, he attended courses on farming.
When he was released from prison, he was determined to turn to a fresh page in his life.
He borrowed money from his parents, brother and friends, raised RM 150,000 and planted 4 acres of chilli on his 10-acre farm.
For the first time in his life, he paid RM850 as first income tax as he had never paid tax before.
To enable him to expand, he went to apply for a loan from the bank. That was when his troubles started. Since his business was less than two years old, the bank was unable to give him a loan.
During that time, he learnt that the Yayasan Tekun National financing scheme provided micro-financing to small businessmen for working capital requirements.
It was based on the concept of “loan on deposit” where the loan is used as additional capital to develop existing businesses.
Balachandran applied for 30K but only got 9K. It was insufficient to fully carry out his activities so he started borrowing from Ah Longs.
He claims he is making enough to pay the Ah Longs and maintain the farm but not enough for expansion.
He could not upgrade his farm. From planting 2,000 chilli plants, it is his desire to increase his farm to 10,000 plants.
He uses the fertigation method which is the application of fertilisers, soil amendments and other water soluble products through an irrigation system.
This new technology has been recommended by the agriculture department.
He next approached Yayasan myNadi, an NGO which helps underprivileged communities in Malaysia. A. Ravendiran Arjunan who said he represented Yayasan myNadi came to visit Balachandran and has yet to provide a positive response.
When Citizen Journalists Malaysia (CJMY) tried to contact Yayasan myNadi it was found that the special assistant to the chairman of MyNadi is now following up on the issue directly with Balachandran.