ON TUESDAY, the Jharkhand government organised a mega event to mark the state’s 17th foundation day on the birth anniversary of tribal icon Birsa Munda. But at Munda’s birthplace in Khunti district’s Ulihatu, like many other rural outposts across India, there was nothing much to celebrate — the post office had no cash, the banking centre was shut.
And for residents like Fagua Nag, a cancer patient in his 60s, all they can do is wait.
“I was diagnosed with blood cancer more than two years ago. I need to stock up my medicine… one tablet costs Rs 100. But I can’t expect anything from the post office. There used to be a Central Bank of India banking centre. It is closed, too,” says Fagua Nag, the father of six daughters and a son.
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On November 10, two days after the demonetisation policy was announced rendering all existing notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 invalid, Nag undertook “a tough journey for a cancer patient” to withdraw his money.
“I took a tempo from Ulihatu to Saiko, which is around 13 km away and cost me Rs 15. Then, I took another tempo to reach Khunti town and that cost another Rs 15. I had an account in Central Bank and waited in line for around two hours. I withdrew some money. But now, I need to withdraw more,” he said.
And all this, says the BPL-card holder, when is he already burdened by a debt of around Rs 50,000 for which he has had to sell three buffaloes so far.
The other source of income for Fagua’s family is from the ambulance provided by the state government for the village. “My nephew drives it. But it comes at a cost, around Rs 12 per km. Many people have not paid their dues after having used it in the last few days,” he said.
The manager of Central Bank of India’s Khunti branch, Amar Pathak, said the bank had a centre in Ulihatu till about a month ago. “We had two centres, one in Ulihatu and the other in Hoont. They have stopped functioning because the smart cards that are used no longer work. The private telecom operator’s service has virtually stopped,” said Pathak.
Hanna, wife of Samuel Purti, who ran the Ulihatu banking outpost from their residence, said her husband’s four-year contract with the bank ran out and the centre stopped functioning one month ago.
Post master Purna Prakash Purti, meanwhile, says he is helpless without any cash to hand out. “I am yet to see any new currency notes.
Since the last week, all I have been doing is accept deposits totalling around Rs 50,000. I can’t give it back because it is mostly in higher denomination and there is no cash supply. I would be going to Tamad (35 km away) to get cash in the next couple of days,” he said.
On Tuesday, Chief Minister Raghubar Das said in Ranchi that he “bowed” to the “people’s support for demonetisation despite facing troubles”. In Ulihatu, that sentiment didn’t really strike a chord.
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