Situated between the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, Ber Sarai is famous for its second-hand academic books, photocopy shops, course material and even “readymade” PhD theses. On any ordinary day, the market can be seen buzzing with students, many of them UPSC aspirants. However, since demonetisation was announced on November 8, shopkeepers said their business has reduced drastically, despite many of them installing Paytm and getting PoS machines.
Several shopkeepers said they were left with no option but to install Paytm as their business plummeted in the initial days. Despite that, they said, work continued to remain sluggish.
Naresh Chander, who runs Shyam Book Store on rent, said his business has reduced by 75 per cent.“I’ve been running this shop since 1978 and I have never seen times like these. I’m having trouble just paying my monthly rent of Rs 12,000. In the initial days after the announcement, at least we could accept old notes so the situation wasn’t that bad. What makes matters worse is that the government keeps changing the rules. How are we to adjust to the change? If the situation continues, I may have to lay off the one boy who helps me run the shop,” he said.
Chander said installing Paytm has not yielded results because of lack of customers. “How does Paytm matter when students aren’t coming to our shop? This move was supposed to trouble the rich with black money, but it’s only inconveniencing people like me. Just today, I read that Rs 100 crore in new notes has been caught, so what’s the point?” he said.
Just a few steps away from him, and next to a serpentine queue of students waiting to withdraw money from an ATM, is a photocopy shop run by Vivek Singh.
Browsing the internet on one of the computers in his empty shop, he said, “Work has never been an issue for us. Students came to us for assignments, thesis, etc, so we would easily make Rs 30,000 per week on an average — sometimes even in one day. Now the situation has worsened so much that I made only Rs 600 yesterday. We installed Paytm but it
hasn’t helped much. I have eight men working in my shop and I don’t know what to do about their wages,” he said.
Sameer Khan, who works at Sharma Photostat, said prior to the government’s decision of waiving service tax on transactions of less than Rs 2,000 by card, that too was an issue.
“Students would simply refuse to pay by card because of the service tax. In cash transactions, all these complications aren’t there, but since they don’t have cash, we are facing problems. Our business has reduced by at least half,” he said.
The situation is doubly difficult for shopkeepers who don’t have either Paytm or PoS machines.
“Our work (photocopying) is such that people give us small amounts. Who will be willing to pay Rs 10 by Paytm or card? But sometimes, it has happened that some customers say they can only pay by card, so I ask request a neighbouring shopkeeper to deposit the money in their account and pay me cash. I might have to install a machine myself now, because work is suffering. Leave alone earning Rs 1,000 per day, I’m just about earning Rs 200,” said J P Dabral, owner of Sanjay photocopy shop.