A huge chunk of the population lives without easy access to banks and ATMs. Where do they keep their money?
Five people tell us why they prefer the safety of their cupboards, jars and lofts to banks.
In the closet
“I have no faith in banks. They are too impersonal a concept to me,” says Pramila Kulkarni, 80. The mother of seven, who lives in Bavdhan, a suburb of Pune, prefers to keep her money close to her. “It reassures me to see the money. Even my husband, who used to bring in large sums of money during his farming days, never put it in a bank. Earlier, I used to keep my money in a trunk; these days, the cupboard has replaced it,” says Kulkarni, who transfers the money her daughters or son give, to a small purse, which goes inside the folds of her saris in the cupboard.
– Alifiya Khan
Married at the age of 16, Ganga Devi Shukla, 78, was always fond of collecting jewellery — gold necklaces, bangles, rings, earrings, anklets, and what not. Shukla, a resident of Fatehpur district in eastern Uttar Pradesh, is married to a retired branch manager of State Bank of India. As a child, she watched her mother, married to a poor farmer, hide money in small shopping bags. It is a habit she continued. Now, she owns almost 160 such small bags — a collection that is 20 years old and adds up to Rs 1.27 lakh. Most of the money is in Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 old currency notes. “I had almost 200 such bags in my almirah 25 years ago, but I used some money for my youngest daughter’s wedding. I continued to collect and, now, I have this much. What do I do with this money?” says Shukla. She has found an answer. She bought a pair of gold bangles from her jeweller, who happily accepted her notes.
When Asha Rani, 43, from Pinhat village in Agra, heard that the old Rs 500 notes were no longer legal tender, she was aghast. She immediately asked her son, Rahul, to climb the loft in her room and get a bunch of cloth pieces down. She had good reason to be worried. Rani, a tailor, would bundle the notes she saved in small knots in pieces of leftover cloth and hide them in the loft. “There were some seven-eight cloth pieces and I had hid Rs 1,000 or Rs 2,000 in each, all in old Rs 500 notes. I had not shown them to my husband, who does nothing but drink and waste money,” she said. Since November 8, she has been doing the rounds of the nearby bank to exchange her savings (Rs 12,000 in all), but every time she managed to reach the counter, the bank ran out of cash. If nothing works, Rani says, she would buy a fridge from a shop-owner who is ready to take old notes.
Leelaben Bhurabhai Patel, 52, a farmer in Charal village in Gujarat’s motown Sanand, is not worried. She is one of the many farmers who sold their land for a fortune when the Tata Nano project was set up. With curbs on cooperative banks in disbursing money, the family is slowly emptying its emergency cash — about
Rs 50,000 — stored in a safe in an iron cupboard. “While we did get close to Rs 8 crores for the land, we invested by buying 20 bighas of land, a car, jewellery, a tractor and a truck,” says her son, Kiritbhai Patel. “We have no black money as we invested it all. We keep emergency cash because there are no banks or ATMs in the vicinity,” he says. The nearest bank is 21 km away in Sanand town. They’re a family of 12, but they say they are managing just fine.
Out of the box
Javed, 45, a migrant from Bihar, moved to Kolkata when he was eight. He began by cleaning cars for a living and now, after nearly four decades, is a cab driver. He drives a car he does not own. He does not have a bank account. “The money I have in my pocket is literally all the money my family has this week,” says Javed, showing an old Horlicks jar that carries some of his savings. The other amount the family manages to save goes into a wooden jewellery box — about 12 inches wide and 10 inches long. It contains crumpled Rs 100 and Rs 500 notes as well as two photographs of Javed and his wife, when they got married. Demonetisation has hit his business hard. “For the first few days, there were no customers. Everybody chose Uber or Ola. We managed because we borrowed some money from family and friends. Plus, I still have a few Rs 1,000 old notes. I don’t know what to do with them,” he says.