Anyone who has an Aadhar-linked bank account can now buy vegetables without currency at Rythu bazaars (government-sanctioned farmers’ markets) in Telangana. With smaller denomination notes hard to come by post demonetisation, the Telangana State Marketing Department has begun an experiment to replace cash with tokens that can be used at the vegetable markets.
The tokens, in denominations of Rs 5, Rs 10 and Rs 20, are available at mobile counters being set up by the Industrial Development Financial Corporation (IDFC) at various markets and other locations. The IDFC counters have hand-held machines connected to servers of all banks, and a small mobile ATM machine that can hold up to Rs 25,000 in cash.
Those seeking the tokens have to provide their Aadhar numbers, which are fed into the hand-held machines, which then authenticates credentials and the bank account linked to that number through a fingerprint scan. Once cleared, a customer can take tokens worth a maximum of Rs 500, which would be deducted from the bank account. Customers will receive a text message on their mobile phones from their banks, notifying them of the transaction.
Farmers, vegetable sellers or vendors who accept the tokens in lieu of cash can deposit them at IDFC counters at the end of the day, which will then credit their bank accounts with an equal amount.
“The IDFC mobile ATMs linked to the hand-held machines can also dispense cash to those depositing the tokens. For instance, if a farmer or vendor wants some of the amount in cash and the rest to be deposited in the bank account, it can be done,” Telangana Marketing and Irrigation Minister T Harish Rao said. The IDFC agents facilitating these transactions receive a commission from the banks.
The experiment was started at the Kukatpally Rythu Bazar Friday afternoon but the response was initially slack as many buyers and vendors could not remember their Aadhar numbers. It has since picked up.“
“Due to lack of awareness, only 85 transactions happened Friday but today, over a 100 people availed coupons within an hour. Buyers are happy and farmers, who were suffering from a slump in sales and lack of cash in hand, are ecstatic. We are fine-tuning it now,” director of agriculture marketing G Lakshmi said.
With hundreds queued up to buy the tokens, stocks of fruits and vegetables that had been lying unsold for several days, were finally seeing buyers.
“I did not have any sales the whole of last week. We threw away a lot of tomatoes and cabbage. Since morning, I have been accepting the tokens after my son brought our Aadhar numbers and they linked it at the counter. We have some 40 tokens so far and so it is good. I will encash them in the evening,” said Nalla Sriramulu, a farmer from Sangareddy.
Health Minister C Laxma Reddy has requested the IDFC to start their counters at government hospitals immediately. The counters are expected to be operational at the hospitals from Wednesday.
Officials said that due to uncertainty over when the cash crisis will ease, the Telangana government has decided to start the token payment system. “It will be introduced at various places in the coming days to help businessmen, contractors and others to pay daily wagers, labourers, and staff,” an official said.