Is a common man ready for less cash or a cash less economy?
‘Notebandi ke Pachaas Din’ (50 days of demonetisation). Demonetisation, a decree, that brought a standstill to the entire nation, instantaneously pulling off 86% of cash circulation, pausing the life of a common man, pushing him to the dock- vulnerable, ashamed, harassed and humiliated.
It’s not about flattering or panning a specific political party, government or a legislation. It’s certainly not about those rich, privileged yet careless and ruthless people who continued their lavish, extravagant and profligate ways, making a mockery of not only the system, but also of the common man who was hit the hardest and suffered all the pain badly since the harsh dictum. And yes, it’s not about those too who ‘changed’ and ‘arranged’ cash, back into their closets swiftly, quickly and easily, without any inconvenience through unknown channels.
It’s about a Common Man!! It’s about the doubts, confusions, reluctance, queries and inhibitions of a Common Man. It’s about the questions raised by him about this sudden transition from a ‘Cash Economy’ to a ‘Cash less’ or a ‘Less Cash Economy’.
But, who is this common man?
Common man is the most vulnerable, but the most valuable asset for the future in India. With all the sufferings, insecurity, delays, injustice and inflation, since time immemorial, he still manages to live. Not just live, but dream. Not only dream, but hope. And then, aspire. Dream for better tomorrow. Dream for his children. Hope that some clean politician would come with a wand. Hope that humanity would finally win over insanity. He still aspires for growth and success. Farmers, Artisans, traders, labours, housewives, common man is anybody who has a stake in the system, who is a tool to build a government and a nation, but unfortunately, doesn’t have the power or an effective say.
But, at the same time, a common man has the right to speak and raise a question. Even our President himself quotes, ‘freedom to doubt, disagree, dispute intellectually must be protected as an essential pillar of democracy’.
When our Prime minister appealed for 50 days’ support from the common man, common man did. Despite facing all the troubles, number of unfortunate deaths and sacrifices while waiting for one’s own hard-earned money, common man continued to support his leader. But now, most of the people who showed faith to PM’s words, seem to get impatient. They are losing faith, and are doubtful now. They are reluctant to accept ‘cash less’ or a ‘less cash’ economy.
They wonder what future does digitalization hold in India? For women, for villagers- Is that so easy to accept this? Are they prepared and ready to accept this change? Can accessibility to ready cash be replaced by digitalized economy? Is the change in mentality or to expect that change so early right? Is common man ready to cope with this sudden drastic change?? No, he is not. On the contrary, he is terrified, confused, humiliated, clueless and worried about his future!! He feels safe with the cash money in hand. Looking at the recent ‘Jan Dhan Yojana’ scam, he wonders if his hard-earned money would be safe in bank accounts. He fears that his money will be stolen from his account. How many days will the government take to answer these queries of a common man?
Smita, 35, a homemaker, lives in Lucknow. Her husband works for a sales company and is a frequent traveler. The couple has six-year-old twins, a boy, and a girl. Smita doesn’t have much interest in banking and digital ways of transactions, withdrawals or deposits so her husband makes sure to leave at least 2 months’ salary in cash at home, in view of any urgent need. After demonetisation, she had to borrow everything on credit from the shopkeepers till her husband returned and settled all dues. She tells that the sudden Notebandi declaration made a ‘beggar image’ of hers in front of everyone which was very humiliating. She tried to learn and pay through mobile wallets, but due to poor internet connectivity, couldn’t use and appreciate that option either!! Hence, she feels safe with ‘cash’ as it is visible!! She is unwilling to accept the ‘less cash’ and ‘more digitalized’ economy and still relying on the cash her husband has left for her at home.
Deepanjali,40, is not very different from Smita. She lives in Poona along with her 11-year-old daughter. Her husband lives abroad and visits family only twice a year. Deepanjali has some health problems so she is not able to move out so frequently, hence her husband too leaves a good amount of cash to make sure of every convenience for his wife. But after Notebandi, she had to stand in long queues to change currency which made her condition worse. Finally, she had to arrange a person to do the needful for which he charged a lot of commission. Finally, a few days ago, her husband had to fly down to India specially to deposit some of the left old notes for which the bank made him clarify the reason of depositing the money so late. He was furious. His hard-earned money first got wasted in commission, and then in the flight ticket!! Moreover, he faced such humiliating queries!! Now that her husband has returned back to his work, Deepanjali cannot go out much due to complications increased due to standing for so many hours in the long queues so she has to rely on those nearby grocery stores who deliver goods in exchange for only cash payment. Therefore, she is reluctant to accept this ‘less cash’ economy.
Guha is a retired government employee. He is very disappointed with the demonetisation scheme. He is not able to walk or stand for so long. He lives in Delhi and had to struggle a lot to change his old currency. He told that he had never faced humiliation in his career, but at this age, he had to face abusive language of not only bank employees, but also the security personnel who were deployed there in the bank. He told that he was harassed by asking repeatedly about his and his wife’s saving accounts. “Kya aam janta chor hai, aur wo sab doodh ke dhule? Ye sab karne se kya farak pada?? Aam aadmi pareshaan hua, jo chor hain, unhone ab naye noton se apni tijoriyaan bhar leen!! Aatankwaad per bhi koi farak nahi dikhta, hamaari fauj per ab bhi unke hamle lagaataar ho rahe hain (Is common man a thief, and are they all clean?? What difference it all made? Only common man suffered, money launderers laundered new currency notes!! Even terrorism is not checked, our army is still attacked by them)”, he fumed!!
Hariya, 50, is a fruit seller in Mathura. When asked about his condition, he almost broke down and told that he has to look after his family not only living with him but in his native village too. He sends cash money to his parents living in a village. When asked about using digital methods, he talks about the fact that he doesn’t have any bank account. He doesn’t have a mobile too. He rues that he has not been able to send money to his ailing parents. Moreover, his father does farming there in the village, where he could not sow seeds on time due to lack of cash money.” Beej to paisa dekar milte hain, cheque dekar nahi” ( We buy seeds through cash payment, and not by cheque)