On the eve of the first anniversary of demonetisation, people reminisce the struggle of standing outside banks and ATMs for hours and the effort it took to put together a meal or a hospital bill without Rs 500 and Rs 100 notes. Rajesh Pandya (46), an employee at a private company, recalls how he spent four hours in the queue outside Dena Bank to withdraw Rs 4,000 which came out in two crisp notes of Rs 2000. “The first week was very difficult,” he says.
Neema Shelat (35) said, “Demonetisation was a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi made people rethink their priorities. It was very difficult to manage the household expenses during those days.”
There were also instances when the hospitals refused to accept the old notes and people were left without treatments. Reena Kelkar (56) recalls, “My son was very ill. I had to take him to a nearby hospital early in the morning to get him treated. But the hospital refused to accept any old notes. So I had to stand outside a bank for almost two hours as my son struggled to stay awake.”
Arpan Lakhani (26) remembers how all his money had suddenly become worthless. “I had to go to Delhi for a meeting on November 9. I had Rs 5,000 but all of it’s worth came down to zero at 8 pm that night. I rushed to the ATM but couldn’t get through my transaction because of the long queue.”
While some people welcomed the change with some optimism, some felt a tinge of despair. Even the optimism soon disappeared as the impact on business became more apparent.
Kishore Pandya a 34-year-old rickshaw driver said, “I felt a severe impact. Not many people preferred to ride autos during the peak of demonetisation. Those who did, did not have enough change and ended up paying less.”
Even vegetable and fruit vendors were dealt a severe blow with the scrapping of the notes.
Meena Desai (44) and Shikha Patel (38) who sell vegetables in Ghatlodia, said, “The number of vegetables we used to sell has fallen. Earlier we used to sell seasonal vegetables, but now we stick to regular ones.”
While many people have adopted the cashless culture, many are still reluctant to digitise their wallets.
Vanshita Mukherjee (22), daughter of a vegetable vendor near Ghatlodia said, “Even if I encourage my father to have a card machine at his shop, he does not approve of it. He feels that because he is not educated his customers might fool him.”
Businessmen like Bhavesh Waria feel that there was a lesser impact on larger businesses. He said, “Business was stagnant, but there was no negative impact. We accepted cards long before demonetisation. Their usage only increased after demonetisation.”
Another reason why people have shied away from digitisation is the lack of Internet connectivity because of which a lot of transactions are not realised.