Workers, small shop-keepers and the poor in the state continue to reel under cash crunch since the announcement of demonetisation of old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8. While banks continue to witness long queues, ATMs keep running out of cash even as several others remain shut since November 8. The condition of scores of people, who struggle to make ends meet, raises concern.
Dayabhai Mohanbhai Solanki (50), a worker at a fabrication agency at Vastrapur in Ahmedabad, has never stood in a bank queue to withdraw cash. He does not have a debit card. “I am an uneducated person and I’m afraid this move will hit people like me,” says Dayabhai, who earns a few hundred rupees per day in cash.
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Forty days since demonetisation, the queues continue at the banks. Cashlessness remains a distant dream.What’’s more, everyday transactions have been hit the most. Honey Modi (20), a student of English Literature in the Gujarat University, who lives at Govindvadi, says that buying groceries and vegetables has become difficult. During the first few weeks, she spent her savings – in the denominations of Rs 10, 20 and 50. “In the beginning, we did face problems relating to the day-to-day transactions, but since my father runs a store, we soon started getting payments in legal currency.” She says they had to go 3-4 times to an ATM or a bank to withdraw and exchange Rs 500 and 1,000 notes.
The cash deficiency has not spared the senior citizens. They too have to line up in queues for withdrawal or exchange of notes. Hemant Desai (59), a retired superintendent in the Small Causes court, residing near SG highway, has stood in queues for withdrawing cash and exchanging old notes for at least four times.
Many small traders and workers at small shops are a worried lot. Atul Shrivastav, a worker at V.I.P mobile store on Relief Road, says, “It seems that the 50 days asked by Modi is just so that people get habituated to standing in queues. Earlier, people used to stand in queues for petrol when the prices were hiked, but look at it now: even though petrol prices have increased by Rs 2, people aren’t much worried.”
Dr Shoeb S. Katrawala, who runs Katrawala Diagnostic Centre on Astodia Road, says, “Mr Modi has said that this is all being done to cut down black money, to cut off funds to terrorists and stop the flow of counterfeit money in the economy. I must say that it’s not working. Even the cashless method that the government has been asking to resort to for payments is not comfortable for all. Such a huge leap is not possible for everyone. Had it been put in phases and executed well, there was a chance that online/card payments could be generalised.”
Zahir Badami, officiating manager at Creative Tours & Travels (India) Pvt Ltd, says, “I would have been in total support of Modi’s decision had the planning and execution been proper. I’ve had to stand for 3-4 hours in a line to withdraw cash and I have stood in queues at least four times so far.”
Some, however, have taken this to be the new normal. “The first week was tough. But it is already getting back to normal and it’s just a mental setup among common men that what is happening is wrong. I bear no grudges against the government and totally support the decision,” says Mr Anant Thakkar, owner of New Girish cold drinks centre on Ashram Road.
Students, on the other hand, are discovering that using debit cards is more convenient than standing in queues at ATMs and banks. Though they are concerned about cyber crimes.
Tirth Patel (18) has started using his debit card more often than before, especially in restaurants. “I have been to the ATMs to withdraw money twice before, but by the time it was my turn, the ATMs had run out of cash and this is my third attempt at an ATM to withdraw cash. This is why I prefer to use debit card wherever possible,” he says. “I’ve had a wedding ceremony in the family after demonetisation and we had trouble during that time. We resorted to cashless transactions wherever and whenever possible,” he says.