Owners of shops selling Christmas articles in Allahabad sat idle as shoppers, left cash strapped post demonetisation of high-value bank notes, stayed away from markets. Prime Minister Narendra Modi dropped a bombshell on November 8 by abolishing 500 and 1,000 rupee currency notes that accounted for 86 per cent of cash in circulation. The liquidity crunch in the country has forced people to cut down on Christmas expenses. Shops have stocked up Christmas goodies and decorations, but customers remain elusive.
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A shop owner, Rakesh Kumar, said the number of customers had fallen to an unprecedented low in the last several years. “We have a large Christian community here and a lot of big churches in the city and our clientele have usually been good. But the currency ban has led to the markets being deserted. We have been working here for many years, but we have never seen such quiet in the markets before,” said Kumar.
Businesses have been affected with a marked decrease in the footfalls. Customers coming out to shop are spending small amount, choosing to save money for essential expenses. The move was aimed at cracking down on the shadow economy but has brought India’s cash economy to a virtual standstill.
“I have been setting up my shop here for the last 16 years and a lot of new products have arrived. This year the festival has been seriously affected by the currency ban. The market has lost its sheen and all the products have been left unsold,” said another shop owner, Shobhit Kesarvani.
The government’s sudden move has caused huge disruption to daily life, leaving people struggling to pay for basic goods like food and fuel. People across the country have been braving long queues and hours of wait to withdraw money from banks and ATMs.
India’s over 1.2 billion population comprises of about 2.5 per cent Christians and the festival is celebrated with much pomp and gaiety across India with people spending lavishly on decorations and gifts. Christmas celebrations are marked by carols, cakes and candles, among other things.