A downsized wedding is being organised Thursday primarily on credit, a farmer has almost decided to give up sowing for the next season while the mother of a daily-wager who works abroad has been unable to access her bank account for more than a week. All have more than felt the pinch of the demonetisation gambit effected a month ago, struggling to cope with the shortage of cash. But they have decided to give the Centre another 20 days. And they say it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address at a rally in Kushinagar on November 27 that convinced them.
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“We were all feeling harassed by this notebandi but when we heard Modiji was coming to Kushinagar, we had to go and see what he had to say about this. Woh haath jod ke pachaas din ka samay maange (With folded hands, he asked us for 50 days). He said this was for the good of the country. We have decided to give him that time,” says Sumesh Kushwaha, a daily wager who works at a construction site in Gorakhpur.
The rally was about 50 km away, but Langra village pradhan Ghanshyam Ghond says three buses were organised for the residents of his village. “People have been worried since the government announcement on November 8. The rules kept changing and the lines only increased. Everybody wanted to hear first-hand from the Prime Minister. Some came back satisfied, others were skeptical,” Ghond said.
Young men are hard to find in Langra (population 1,500), which is also the last village in Uttar Pradesh near the border with Bihar. With little employment on offer in Deoria district and farming not profitable, the majority of able-bodied men in this village travel across the country looking for work, some even abroad.
Like Myna Devi’s son, Sanjay. “My son works in Doha. He used to work at a construction site in Gorakhpur but was recruited for a job in Qatar. He earns three times what he used to get here and every month he sends back Rs 30,000. But this month, I have been unable to withdraw any cash from the bank,” she says.
The nearest branch is the local Gramin Bank, which has not been able to hand out more than Rs 1,000 per customer. So Langra relies on the Punjab National Bank branch in Deoria, some 15 km away.
“The round trip itself on a shared autorickshaw takes Rs 30. Several days, we have come back empty-handed. So we end up spending money for nothing. My daughter is getting married on Thursday and we have had to borrow money from neighbours and relatives. We wanted to give more gifts to the groom’s family but all we could afford was an almirah,” says Moti Chaurasia.
According to Ghond, the village has had six weddings since November 8. “In every wedding, they had to cut down on costs. How can anybody manage a wedding on Rs 5,000 or Rs 10,000? Even in this village we need at least Rs 60,000 for a wedding. People are angry, but for now, they are going to put up with this discomfort,” Ghond says.
Myna Devi lives alone and has managed so far by buying supplies from the village grocery shop on credit. “We all know each other here, but I am not sure how long I can keep this up. The shopkeeper too needs money to buy supplies,” she says.
For others in Langra, the discomfort is temporary, and well worth the wait. “This is the single biggest step against corruption and black money ever in the country. We are all with the Prime Minister on this. The effects are visible. I stay here, but work in Gorakhpur, the richest city in this area. I must say that I used to see several Audis and Mercedes there, but since November 8 they are off the roads. They are scared of the government now,” says 19-year-old Krishna.
His friends speak of GPS chips in the Rs 2,000 note and a cellphone application that activates a Modi speech when placed before the new currency notes — the application has since been taken down and there are no GPS chips the new notes.
“This is amazing and shows how well planned this new currency move was. If I put a new note below my mobile phone camera, a video speech of Modiji pops up where he talks about how this will control black money and corruption. It is amazing,” says Sukesh, who also works at construction sites in Gorakhpur.
Girijesh Shahi is the BSP candidate for the Rampur Karkhana assembly seat under which Langra falls. “Even I believe this move by the central government is a good one against black money. I will call a spade a spade. I have to applaud the move. But over the last few days, I believe something has gone wrong. The number of people coming to my office begging for help has increased,” he says.
Ram Gati Kushwaha, from Langra, was among those who went to Shahi. “I am a farmer with just three bighas of land and I am struggling. I have no money to sow for the next season. Though I can borrow money for seeds, how will I get fertiliser and pay the labourers. It is impossible,” he says.
While Langra continues to “manage”, Sanjay Kushwaha, who attended Modi’s rally in Kushinagar, believes his decision is simple. “If all this settles by December 30, which is the 50-day deadline Modiji has set, I assure you the BJP is forming the government in UP too. But if it does not, the anger of the people will not end with just a vote,” he says.