In the basement of a manufacturing unit in Noida Sector 8, three men polish metal utensils, stack them and carry them to another section for packaging. Minutes later, cartons are placed inside a lone truck outside. “This is the only dealer we have received orders from in the last month. Our business has come down by 90 per cent since demonetisation,” said Anuj Jain, director of Sapphire (Evershine Metal Industries Private Limited), which has a manufacturing unit in one of Noida’s industrial pockets.
Of around 40 employees who work here, more than 20 have gone back to their villages in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. “They were facing cash problems. We had given their salaries in cheques but some don’t have bank accounts while others have one in their villages. They do not have debit cards and don’t know how to use to an ATM,” Jain said.
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To retain employees, the company tried to help workers get basic food and household items. “We asked a grocery store owner to provide them food items. He kept an account of what each employee was buying. That amount was deducted from the employee’s salary and we paid the shopkeeper through cheque. But there are other expenses. They have to pay Rs 500-1,000 in rent. Plus they send money home,” Jain said.
Sapna Srivas, the office in-charge at the unit, has been coming at 1-1.30 pm every day. “I have been standing in bank queues for 10 days but have failed to get cash,” she said.
The peak season for production and sales of utensils and kitchenware, Jain said, starts around Diwali and ends in February.
“This is the time when we have most work. For Diwali, we supply goods to dealers and distributors on credit and payments are made weeks later. But due to demonetisation, the entire cycle has been blocked. We went to Lucknow to receive payment from a retailer, but had to stay there for four days because he did not get any customers,,” Jain said, before being interrupted by an employee who told him they had run out of milk.
Holding a few cheques, Jain added, “I have been running to banks and no work has got done. Today, I told the bank manager I will close down my account if I do not get my work done. But it’s not the bankers’ fault — what can he do if they are not getting money?”