Demonetization: A boon or a bane ? Dream of a cashless India is far-fetched.

The demonetization of 500 and 1000 rupee notes by the Modi government has brought more hardships than respite to the working middle-class. With the aim of booking black money hoarders, replacing counterfeit currency and making way for cashless economy, this move has only caused distress to the public at large.

People waiting in queues all around India to withdraw money.

This cash shortage has been significantly hard for the people in the countryside, where there are less ATMs and many don’t even have bank accounts. One such area is Azaad Nagar in Mysore District where the majority of population is dependent on agriculture for their livelihood.

Sikandar Khan, a head-load worker, said “There is no bank or ATM here. The nearest ATM is three kilometers away. If we go to withdraw our money in the morning, we come back late in the evening only due to long queues. How can we work like this? I had to take multiple offs just because of this.”

Due to low rainfall and excessive damage to cash crops, many in the village resort to other odd jobs like labour work and plantation worker in Coorg. More than half of the womenfolk here are engaged with beedi-rolling. Tobacco is also one of the largest produce in Azaad Nagar.

Razia and Noorisma, both have been rolling beedis since five years now. There are hundreds of women beedi workers in Azaad Nagar who roll about 400–500 beedis per day and get Rs. 120 for 1000 beedis.

“We are not getting our payment on time. They give us Rs 2000 note which we have to distribute amongst ourselves but how will we get change?” Razia wondered.

Shirintaj Begum, a tailor, said that her business has stalled as most of her customers give her Rs. 2000 notes which are not easy to get change for. Some even gave her banned currency notes on the pretext of advance payment but she refused.

After the Demonetisation announcement on November 8, the move has been hailed as one of the most courageous reforms by some experts. The general consensus was that it’s for the greater good and will help in tackling terrorism and counterfeiting. This alleged crack down on corruption has created chaos and more costs.

Zia-Ulha Maqbool, who works as a Water supplier and is also known as Water-man, said that 75% of the people here go out for work and earns around Rs. 300–350 per day. After note-ban no one is getting payment on time. “I can’t pay for the tea I am having through a debit card. It costs me Rs. 5 and I need change to pay for this. Even after two months, the problem is not resolved. Only we are suffering, big people are not standing in queues like us.” he said.

Zia-Ulha Maqbool with wife Razia

The dream of a cashless India is far-fetched as it fails to take into account the ground realities of Rural India where most of the business dealings are conducted through cash. Even metro cities faced acute shortage of cash due to Demonetisation. This situation is worse in the countryside with no ATMs.

“We are not educated. How will we know that they are actually taking Rs 200 from me and not Rs. 2000 when I use a debit card? What will we do with these cards?” asked Asgar Pasha, a tobacco farmer.
Akbar Pasha, Asgar Pasha and Madhav Gada work as Tobacco farmers.

Akbar’s brother, Asgar Pasha, who works as an agricultural labourer narrated his experience of withdrawing Rs. 25,000 everyday straight for a week in order to arrange finances for his daughter’s wedding. Ultimately, he had to postpone the wedding to February.

“For how many days will I keep on going to withdraw Rs. 25,000? I have to work also otherwise I would lose that day’s income. This is my money and still I can’t withdraw.” said Akbar Pasha.

Though this is not the first time that such an initiative has been introduced in India but there is a vast difference between then and now. The earlier currency ban had hardly affected ordinary people as they had not even seen a 500 or 1000 rupee note. But this time these banned notes formed a considerable part of the financial transactions.

Shaheenta, a beedi-roller faces lot of problem in getting change at the nearby grocery shop. The shopkeeper refuses to give her change even when she buys goods.

Kabiruddin Sheikh, a farmer and dairy worker, said that no one is ready to give them loans. He is struggling to make ends meet and is somehow surviving by selling cow’s milk daily for 50–100 rupees. His wife who works as a casual labourer doesn’t have any work after the currency ban. They have a son and a daughter who are studying in school but might not be able to study further as they can’t pay the fees.

Naseema Bano, who is a resident of Azaad Nagar for the last 20 years, said that the farmers are the worst hit by Demonetisation. Her husband is a farmer who grows tobacoo, wheat, maize and cotton.

“Due to poor monsoon, our crops got damaged and we suffered a loss of Rs Two lakhs. Moneylenders are not ready to give loans for small amounts. We are managing somehow.” said Naseema.

Demonetisation has hit the poorest the most, but they are ready to face the brunt and inconveniences for the sake of the nation.

Credits:

Kajol Rustagi

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