Cashless transactions can’t change our lives, toilets can

India’s ‘first cashless tribal village’ Nedumkayam in Malappuram district of Kerala has no proper drinking water facility and sufficient toilets

In a farcical show, a small tribal village in Kerala was declared India’s ‘first cashless tribal village’ recently, even though its villagers do not have basic facilities like drinking water, toilets and power supply.
Malappuram District Collector Amit Meena on December 27 transferred Rs 5 each digitally to accounts of 27 persons in Nedumkayam, and declared it India’s ‘first cashless tribal village’, according to a report in The Indian Express. This was the alpha and omega of the village’s digital interaction.
The declaration was made as part of ‘My Malappuram, My Digital’ project, envisaged to make Kerala’s Malappuram the first cashless district in India.
Nedumkayam, which has around 400 members of the Paniya tribe, was provided WiFi to facilitate online payment using the SBI Buddy app in smartphones, and then trained how to use it.
A week later, WiFi is available in only around 10 houses close to the community hall where the modem is installed, that too after 8 pm when the tribals return from work and the building is opened. Since the building has no power connection, supply is provided from a nearby house.
The tribals, however, are not bothered, for, as they say, they get daily wages which they hardly ever put into bank accounts. Of the men in the colony, only three are salaried employees, working as watchers with the forest department. Two others do the same job for daily wages.
For them what matters more is availability of drinking water and toilets.
They fetch drinking water from a nearby river. However, during the day, because of tourists, their movement is restricted. During the rains, they strain the dirty water using a cloth and use that for even drinking purpose.
Of the 103 houses in Nedumkayam, only 15 have toilet facilities. Families in the rest of the houses depend on the few common toilets or go in the open, to the nearby teak plantation.
The report quotes a 20-year-old tribal girl Swapna as saying: “Introducing cashless transactions won’t change our lives. Let the government first bring toilets so that women can at least defecate safely.”
The state government has a housing scheme for the homeless, but that requires them to have minimum three cents of land — they are given Rs 2.50 lakh in instalments to build houses thereon. Many tribals don’t have the land to apply for the housing scheme.