Maharashta: From coupons to call centres, rural fairs innovate to beat cash crunch

Organisers of Kisan, an annual fair which begins next week in Pune, said they had seen a marked increase in use of debit and credit cards among early bird registrations for a green pass.

Written by Parthasarathi Biswas | Pune | Updated: December 10, 2016 4:57 am
Demonetisation, demonetisation news, Maharashtra, Maharashtra news, cash crunch, agriculture, India news, Indian Express Farmers at the fair in Karad, Satara district. (Express Photo)

The post-demonetisation cash crunch has given rise to innovative methods of payment in rural Maharashtra. Organisers of annual agricultural fairs have come up with unique ways to bypass the problem and allow rural spending to remain unaffected.

One of the first fairs to find an alternative solution for farmers — who mostly deal in cash — is the Yashwant Krishudyogic Pashu Pakshi Pradarshani (Yashwant Agro Industrial Animals and Birds Exhibition) being held at Karad in Satara district for the last 13 years. The organisers of the fair — the flagship event for Karad’s wholesale market — have introduced an internal currency system this year.

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Sandeep Gidde, coordinator manager of the fair, said, “The sudden absence of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes resulted in a currency void that was not easy to fill. The Rs 2,000 notes in circulation were not of much use as there was no accompanying change.”

After extensive brainstorming, Gidde and his team decided to introduce special coupons that would be used as currency at the fair. Called “Yashwant Challan”, these coupons, Gidde said, were printed with face value of Rs 100 each. Visitors would get 20 such notes in exchange for one Rs 2,000 note. “Within the fair ground, these notes would act as legal currency,” Gidde said.

The mechanism is simple. “Suppose you want to buy something for Rs 80. You give the stall owner a single Yashwant Challan. The shopkeeper returns Rs 20 in regular currency, and redeems the Yashwant Challan in regular currency from the organisers at the end of the fair. This currency allows the visitor to use his Rs 2,000 note without being hampered by the lack of loose change,” he said.

The organisers wrote to the Reserve Bank of India and other authorities about the coupons, which can only be used within the fair grounds. The fair, which got under way in the first week of December, has already seen more than 10 lakh visitors. Total collections have added up to Rs 10 crore, and Rs 5.85 crore worth of Yashwant coupons was redeemed. Two farmers bought tractors using the coupons, Gidde added.

Organisers of Kisan, an annual fair which begins next week in Pune, said they had seen a marked increase in use of debit and credit cards among early bird registrations for a green pass. Nirajan Deshpande, an organiser of the fair, said online registrations had jumped six times compared to last year. “Around 53 per cent of early bird registrations are being done through debit cards and netbanking,” he said.

To facilitate on-the-spot registration amid the cash crisis, Deshpande said the fair would have four counters where cards can be swiped.

“Our call centres are calling farmers to help them use their debit cards,” he said. Many of the farmers, he said, were first-time users of debit cards and online payment modes and required handholding.

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