Demonetisation, 6 Months On: ‘Chosen for cashless, don’t even have 3G’

But people did go “cashless” for a brief period: soon after the demonetisation drive.

Written by Sowmiya Ashok | Nangla Hareru | Updated: May 10, 2017 8:59 am
Demonetisation, demonetisation effect, demonetisation six months, demonetisation news, India news, Indian Express At a shop in Nangla Hareru. The Indian Express travelled to 3 ‘digital villages’ to assess what changed, what didn’t. Praveen Khanna

Late afternoon this past Monday, a farmer asked Sunil Kumar for a box of Dhanzyme Gold — an organic manure derived from sea weed. Kumar lifted the small box from a metal shelf and handed it over. A Rs 100 bill, two Rs 10 bills and a Rs 5 coin were exchanged. Kumar dropped the money into a drawer.

In Nangla Hareru, the first village in Uttar Pradesh to be declared “cashless” last winter, Kumar is the seed and pesticide vendor, the banker, and the village “recharge man”. The three things are linked in this village, roughly 30 km from Meerut, where villagers sat through a 15-day camp by Punjab National Bank in December to go “cashless”.

This is one of the three “digital” villages The Indian Express visited, six months after demonetisation was announced on November 8, 2016.

Read: ‘People here don’t have a lot of money, can’t afford internet’

The village has a population of 6,000 and two mini-ATMs. “Only 30-40 per cent of the village is currently cashless,” Kumar said. He has, for three years, run PNB’s mini-kendra on the main road. “The problem is connectivity. The internet crawls here on mobile phones. So people come to me to recharge their phones instead of doing it online.”

But people did go “cashless” for a brief period: soon after the demonetisation drive.

Even Satyaveer Singh, the samosa vendor, had put up a board. His customers were allowed to transfer money through the ‘PNB Kitty’ e-wallet that they had downloaded on their phones. But as cash became readily available, folded notes began appearing in villagers’ pockets.

It was the Jan Dhan Yojana that first brought debit cards to this village. “When Jan Dhan accounts were opened, everyone got cards but nobody collected them,” said Fareed Rizvi, a resident. “It was Sunil (Kumar) who would make announcements and try to convince people to collect the cards but in vain. So he ended up returning at least 50 per cent to the bank. But after note bandi, people went to the banks and collected them.”

Kumar agrees that the Jan Dhan Yojana made his village lucrative enough to be chosen for the “cashless” programme. “Many people already had debit cards, the village was on a main road, there were micro-ATMs installed and people had android phones,” he explained. “But if you have to stare at a screen to load for 10 minutes, you will lose interest in doing anything online.”

He did try to get 3G connectivity, often writing to the senior staff of the telecom provider that services his village. But to no avail. “I am tired of making efforts. We were chosen to go cashless, a seminar was held to teach us how, but we don’t even have 3G connectivity,” he said.

Also read: Some praise govt initiative, but say PoS machines arrived long after cash crunch

Electricity is available for 16 hours a day, up from 12 hours, he said. Under his desk, new SIM cards lie piled up. When the data pack works on his phone, he transacts entirely online.

It’s in Nangla Hareru that the word “ATM” is used instead of “debit cards”. “ATM use karne se log darte hain,” Rizvi said.

“We recently heard of someone getting scammed and losing over a lakh. Since then, many people, especially the old and illiterate, have been wary of online transactions,” he said. “But at least the women go to Kumar’s shop for their banking work. Much easier than travelling to Mawana, which is a fair way off.”

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  1. S
    Subasree Venkatesan
    May 11, 2017 at 11:27 am
    We have a innovative cashless alternative similar to cash, doesn't require internet or any PIN for authentication. Can I help taking it to the government?
    1. S
      Sujatha Selvam
      May 10, 2017 at 7:56 pm
      As long as innocent people are there in the country, this government will fool them with false promises and fake achievements. Indian Express is doing a great job by conducting investigative journalism. But it is sad that other newspapers or TV channels are hesitant, fear to open their mouth to bring the real situation to the public. They are just echoing what the government is fed to them. This situation must change, the media should be liberated from the clutches of friends of government, then only this country can know the truth. Prime Minister Narendra Modi promises homes to the country’s 1.3 billion people by 2022. It is an impossible task, even 20 cannot be achieved. These fancy dialogue must be stopped and talk about what really we can do. Even the world's richest country USA is unable to provide own house for all its citizens and most of them who own house are under home loan schemes only. Enough of showing us rosy pictures, we get only disappointments.
      1. R
        Rameswar Pattanayak
        May 10, 2017 at 5:23 pm
        The real problem in going cashless lies with MDR and w rs. The w rs justifiably cannot be expected to part with almost 50 of their earning in accepting payment(1-2 MDR from 3-5 margin). Hence they ask cash from retailers who in turn not interested to accept card payment from customers. So the cycle continues. Govt offices also does not receive card payments. If MDR can be done away with and w rs are made bound to accept online payment things will turn positive for cashless society overnight.
        1. T
          May 10, 2017 at 3:58 pm
          so many challenges being faced by rural people and our leaders are shouting "Digital India" "Cashless India".. for the internet and twitter warriors! Real picture is totally different. Renaming old policies and making everything a 'yojana' wont help! Defence minister got scared with the pressure, went to Goa and there's no one in the cabinet to take that post?! Finance minister is hand 2 portfolios.. so many hiccups already, and they're still winning..
          1. A
            May 10, 2017 at 1:58 pm
            Cashless village is non existent . Like Modi's MA degree in non -existent subject of Entire Political Science. Or for that matter his BA degree, obtained in the same way chaddi ruled Rajasthan and Haryana dispenses pollution certificates.
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