In 2013, farmers in Haryana, India were scammed into selling their farmland for unfairly cheap prices. The Delhi Land and Finance land grab case, as it became known, saw many Indian families lose their means of supporting themselves. The incident isn’t an isolated one; there are thousands of cases like this in India each year.
That was the realization of Oxford Academy high school student Rahil Luthra when he made a 2016 visit to India to see his uncle.
“My Uncle Bupinder, he was actually scammed out of his land in the DLF land grab case,” Luthra said.
Bupinder was coerced to sell his farmland in Amipur for a quarter of what it was worth.
“He lost his entire farm and was forced to go to the slums,” said Luthra. “We actually went to see him there and it was really sad. My cousins were there. After I came home from that, I knew I needed to do something about it.”
Luthra thought about ways to raise money and awareness and eventually landed on writing a book, aimed at children age 8 to 12, to help educate them about financial literacy. He spent a year and half, writing, revising, getting the artwork done and then looking for a publisher. His father found publisher Caitlyn Jones online and her company, Artist Madrid Books, helped make Luthra’s book a reality.
The result is “The Scam of the Sugar Farm,” written by Luthra and illustrated by Nabeel Hayder.
“This book is a fictional story about a family in India that gets scammed out of their land and then is saved by lawyer who is financially literate,” said Luthra. “The point of the novel is to convey the importance of financial literacy, especially to the younger generation.”
Luthra is an active ambassador for the CRY America charity, a nonprofit that works to educate children in developing nations, and all author royalties from his books sales will go to the organization.
The book was published in April and is available on Amazon, but it will soon be found in Anaheim school libraries, too. Anaheim Unified School District recently agreed to order over 100 copies.
“They are actually implementing a new financial literacy curriculum,” Luthra said. “They are going to buy about 110 copies of the book for all the elementary schools in the area.”
Financial literacy is a skill set Luthra feels is lacking not only in India but in the U.S. public school system.
“I feel like it is an obligation of society to make sure that our younger generation knows how to handle their money,” said Luthra. “When people leave school, they leave not knowing how to pay taxes, how to do anything like that, and we are not really doing a good job of preparing them for the real world.”
Not being financially literate also makes you more vulnerable to scams or being taken advantage of, like Luthra’s Uncle.
After graduation, Luthra plans to pursue a career in financial law and is hoping to create a task force to increase educational resources in the remote villages of India.
He has also reached out to other school districts who might be interested in copies of the book like Anaheim was.
“Of course, I alone can’t make a difference in the world, but if we can get the younger generation to read these books and get inspired, then together as a community we can try to make change and hopefully make a future where everyone is a little more secure with their money.”