Cash reaches ATM in remote Bastar village, over within two hours

Located 25 km from the closest small town of Antagarh, on a near unmotorable road, and surrounded by forests, Koylibeda is the tehsil headquarters.

Written by Dipankar Ghose | Koyelibeda(bastar) | Updated: November 15, 2016 7:42 pm
demonetisation, rs 500 note, rs 100 note, currency ban, black money, pm modi, modi currency ban, modi black money, narendra modi, bastar, atm time, atm, india news, indian express, SBI service point in Koyelibeda, Bastar, has no cash. (Express Photo by Dipankar Ghose)

Paise milhi ka (Will I get money)?” an elderly man asks across the rickety glass counter. His feet are bare, his shirt tattered. For three days, since the Friday bazaar, Sohan Darro, like many others, has been coming to the SBI ‘Customer Service Point’ in Koyelibeda village, deep in Bastar’s jungles, to ask the same question. Rinku Sahare is tired of giving the same response, and the irritation shows. There is no money to give, he repeats. “Bas thode din ke dikkat howega (It will only be a problem for a few days),” says Sahare, who has been contracted by the bank to run the centre. Darro had walked away quietly the first two times. Not anymore. His weak voice shaking, he says, “Dikkat na kahe. Khae baar ghar mein kuchu nahi (Don’t call it an inconvenience. There is nothing to eat at home).”

WATCH VIDEO: Demonetisation: Banks Provide New Rs 500 Notes

Located 25 km from the closest small town of Antagarh, on a near unmotorable road, and surrounded by forests, Koylibeda is the tehsil headquarters. Apart from its 2,800 residents, the village which is one of the worst Naxal-hit areas in Bastar’s Kanker district caters to 17 panchayats, 55 villages, and over 20,000 people. One ICICI Bank branch and an ATM that opened six months ago in Koylibada caters to all of them. For some villages, that means a 20-km walk through hills, streams and rivers to reach the ATM.

Friday was the first day a fresh stock of currency arrived at the bank. As villagers and BSF personnel rushed to withdraw, it emptied in two hours. The ATM has no money now. And the SBI Customer Service Point, which allows people to deposit and withdraw up to Rs 2,000 per day has no money to give. Outside the CSP centre on Sunday morning, small groups of villagers sit on their haunches, most of them exhausted. None has gone home since the Friday bazaar, as their homes are too far away to make the journey repeatedly, and barely eaten since then. The villagers have with them small makeshift bags bearing their savings. For three days, there has been no Internet connection either, and hence even deposits have become impossible. “The forces are building a road, and must have dug up the line. It is always like this here. When there is connectivity, there is no electricity. When there is connectivity, there is no electricity,” Sahare shrugs.

Darro says he rushed to Koylibeda with his money “after our sarpanch told us the cash would become useless if we didn’t put it in accounts and withdraw new money”.
Most people here got bank accounts only in the past two years, a majority of them under the Jan Dhan Yojana. Now there are thousands of accounts, with earnings either from MNREGA labour or government-paid tendu patta collections.

“They give us money in Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes,” points out Mohan Singh Patel, a Koylibeda resident and farmer.

The tribals can’t do without cash as almost the entire economy here, from the weekly bazaar to the buying and selling of grains, and expenditure on festivals and marriages, is cash-driven. “The closest town where a card might work is Bhanupratapur, 60 km away,” Patel says.

WATCH VIDEO: India Queues Up Outside ATMs

Among those gathered at the SBI ‘Customer Service Point’ in Koylibeda village on Friday was Harish Podiyami, who had walked 20 km from his village of Gome. He came with Rs 1,120 in two Rs 500 notes, one Rs 100, and two 10s, tied in a small knot next to his waist.

Gome is one of the farthest villages from the SBI point, and Podiyami says he heard of the demonetisation of currency first at the market. He has six children, as well as old parents, to take care of, and he had been planning to buy supplies for the entire week.

“It should have cost no more than Rs 200 altogether. But the shopkeeper said he had no change, and I had only 120 in loose money. My family can’t go hungry, so I could not return without anything. So he gave me supplies for Rs 200, and took one of my Rs 500 notes,” Podiyami said. The loss of Rs 300 rankles, given that his life savings from over 50 years of working and selling forest produce like Mahua is around Rs 5,000.

Podiyami says he considers himself among the lucky ones. “I have stayed because my neighbour begged me to. He couldn’t buy anything, and was afraid he would die hungry. Now we are sharing the food I bought. But at home they will be hungry, and if no money comes soon, we will be hungry here. Who knows what will happen?”

Fifteen kilometres away from Koylibeda, on the outskirts of Sikhsod, Sita Bai, Manju and Rama hack away at the crop standing in the fields, which intersperse the dense foliage in Bastar. There is no irrigation, a single crop cycle, and early November is the crucial season of “dhan-katai (paddy cutting)”. Much of the “dhan” from the fields is meant for subsistence for the year round, and rest of it for sale in nearby markets.

Villagers are afraid of the agricultural economy declining now. Sita Bai, Manu and Rama are among the “baniyars”, workers hired to cut the grain. This year there may not be money to give. “Right now we are working on credit, because we have cut this field for years. But the farmer has no money to give us, and if that continues for three days, we will go to Antagarh or some other town to look for construction work,” says Sita Bai.

In his hut, the farmer who employs them, 70-year-old Moti Ram, sits with his head in his hands. His two children left home several years ago, and work in factories in Andhra Pradesh. His wife is old, and the years have taken their toll. Talk about the currency being changed, and he launches into an abuse-filled diatribe at the “sarkaar”.

“I went to Koylibeda on Friday, on someone’s bike. But there was no money. If my fields are left uncut, what will we eat? Do they want us to die? I can’t even contact my sons because there is no phone signal,” Ram shouts, almost uncontrollable.

A crowd assembles, and quietly suggests that shouting is bad for Ram’s health, and will accomplish nothing. “Maybe then they will hear people like us,” he says.

 

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  1. J
    Jk
    Nov 15, 2016 at 2:29 am
    A good decision by government to fight against black money, but at ground level common man are facing huge problems in remote areas due to currency crunch where people either can't use or don't know how to use cards. I think concerning authorities should first take care of these remote areas because in developed regions people can depend on plastic money or online transaction to some extent.
    Reply
    1. R
      Roger That
      Nov 15, 2016 at 6:59 am
      babji ki booti ka asar lag rha hai Ghose Babu pe....lt;br/gt;babu mosaye tani kam mara karo...
      Reply
      1. A
        ak dev
        Nov 15, 2016 at 9:43 am
        Lefties are filling IE with fake stories. If shop owner can't return the change, the normal option is to buy items worth Rs. 500 and not Rs 200 as the wants readers to believe. Nobody would leave Rs 300 with shop owner and walk away. Some thing is fishy here. The author is a liar.
        Reply
        1. C
          Chandh
          Nov 15, 2016 at 7:46 am
          These rich people esp. politicians, Pawn store owners, Real Estate Brokers and Builders, Advocates, who takes bribe, they just cannot come and stand in line with normal citizens. A politician or MP or MLA or IAS Officer or builder or Advocate they just cannot come and stand on Q. People will recognize them, people will come to know. Because they will be famous in their area or so. So usually what they do is they send their Childrens or Wife or Maids or Workers or Labours kind of people to deposit money in their accounts and later they could withdraw through ATM. This is only happening. Remember dont say only honest and poor people in trouble.. Not its not. Rich people are in more trouble but they cannot come on front and stand on Q
          Reply
          1. G
            gopal
            Nov 15, 2016 at 4:00 am
            author has very well camaflouged the living conditions of Bastar people as a demonetization problem and IE has published it without verifying..Please do not put every problem as a demonetization problem.
            Reply
            1. J
              Jai bhatt
              Nov 15, 2016 at 4:36 am
              Shoddy editorial work .. lousy reporter !lt;br/gt;Most of the ATMs have 4 sets of 22 cettes. It must be Rs 100 note, the ATM had Rs 4.40 lacs. As per this report "within 2 hours (or 120 minutes) cash at this ATM was over". As per simple maths per minute dispensation is Rs 3,666 ! This is unbelievable !lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Perhaps the reporter got little over excited and as usual the Editors were caught off guard !!!
              Reply
              1. J
                JM
                Nov 15, 2016 at 10:14 am
                Rajeev, people like you better shut up. People's patience are getting thin with arrogant people like you. In India, most of the rural areas are cash economy. Without cadh people can't survive. People should come out and k ick the b a c k side of modi for trying to ruin the life of ordinary people.
                Reply
                1. M
                  Mohan
                  Nov 15, 2016 at 5:40 am
                  These days IE reporting has to be taken with a pinch of salt
                  Reply
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