Sometimes, the debt collectors watched nearby.
More than 200 poor, debt-ridden residents of Andhra Pradesh killed themselves in late 2010, according to media reports compiled by the government of the state.
The state blamed microfinance companies - which give small loans intended to lift up the very poor - for fueling a frenzy of overindebtedness and then pressuring borrowers so relentlessly that some took their own lives.
The companies, including market leader SKS Microfinance, denied it.
However, internal documents obtained by The Associated Press, as well as interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees, independent researchers and videotaped testimony from the families of the dead, show top SKS officials had information implicating company employees in some of the suicides.
An independent investigation commissioned by the company linked SKS employees to at least seven of the deaths. A second investigation commissioned by an industry umbrella group that probed the role of many microfinance companies did not draw conclusions but pointed to SKS involvement in two more cases that ended in suicide.
Neither study has been made public.
Image: In this photo taken Feb. 14, 2012, Ramanjamma, 25, holds a photograph of her debt-ridden husband Jayaramappa, who hanged himself on Oct. 4, 2010 in their home, in Madakasira village about 145 kilometers north of Bangalore.
Images: AP/ Reuters