West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has taken the fight over demonetisation and currency ban to the masses. Her powerful speech at a rally in Delhi’s Azadpur mandi organised by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal struck all the right notes. Narendra Modi’s government is halfway into its tenure and the contentious demonetisation move seems risky to say the least. Mamata seems determined to keep up the fight and this may just be the start of a fever pitch campaign against this government if the troubles for the public continue.
Mamata, who is popular with the masses, especially the poor sections in West Bengal, showed why she commands such a following. She gave an emphatic speech at the vegetable wholesale hub which almost ran out of produce and customers. Mamata alleged that in times of cash crunch, no one bats an eye. She rightly pointed out that mandis are running on credit and farmers are not getting paid for their produce.
Till now, the opposition from people was scattered and wasn’t finding a strong voice. That voice also needed to come from the capital if it had to create any movement on the ground. Opposition’s demand of a probe by a Joint Parliamentary Committee was also not going to give any immediate relief as it will take a long time and at the moment a cash fillip is needed in the system.
The cash crunch has hit daily life badly. People have been queuing up outside ATMs and overburdened banks in hope of getting some paper cash to manage daily affairs. E-payments in a cash driven economy like ours are not proving to be effective as when seen in the context of the whole country, there is only a minute number of places where you can pay by card or online payments.
Critical needs like medicines and healthcare are out of reach of people in such times. Basic necessities like food are not affordable for even the rich. Failure and crashing payment gateways and e-payment servers has exposed the underprepared nature of the online payment infrastructure present in the country.
To control the damage, soon after Mamata finished her speech Jaitley announced that 22,500 ATMs will be recalibrated today. ATMs can’t dispense Rs 2,000 notes without physical recalibration and nearly 2 lakh ATMs in the country need recalibration. ATMs are only dispensing Rs 100 notes and due to high demand and shortage of currency, either the ATMs are running out of cash or are being shut down.
Meanwhile, industry body Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) has estimated that business in the retail sector is down in the country by at least 50 per cent. Both big and small traders are hit. Also, the government on Thursday announced that the daily over-the-counter exchange limit will be reduced from Rs 4,500 to Rs 2,000. It also announced that the people holding a wedding card of a marriage in their immediate family can also withdraw Rs 2.5 lakh cash from their bank accounts.