Last November, when 40-year-old Mahesh, a shopkeeper in Fazilpur Badli village in Gurgaon district, first heard the word “Paytm” — at a camp organised after demonetisation — the term was foreign to his ears.
With a shop located in a quiet village of 3,100 people — most of them farmers — Mahesh had always dealt with customers in cash. “People here do not even have cards, so expecting them to be comfortable with digital payments would have been unrealistic,” he said. A year later, Mahesh stood behind the counter of his store, accepting payments made via the app. Such transactions, however, are few and far between, he said, with most of his customers still choosing to use cash.
The claim was reiterated by Pradeep, another shopkeeper in the area, who said, “Only 10 per cent of the people make digital payments and hardly anyone uses cards. Immediately after notebandi, around 25 per cent people were using applications. But now that cash is back, their old purchasing habits are too.”
Fazilpur Badli had been among the “cashless” villages in India recognised by the government as proof of the success of the scheme, for other villages to draw inspiration from. Since the time The Indian Express last visited the area — six months ago — the single swipe machine purchased by a local has been returned. Land for an ATM machine has been purchased but the machine itself is yet to arrive.
Residents, meanwhile, continue to attribute the persistence of cash payments to poor network, prices of smartphones and data connections, the need for cash to make payments in wholesale markets, which accept only cash, and lack of trust in machines.
“We cannot say what the end result will be, but if the government has been able to catch people who were corrupt and had black money, it may have been worth it,” said Tej Pal, a resident.