It was only recently that Rangan Raju, a tribal living in a remote settlement in Pudur panchayat, had got a bank account to enable cash transfers of government aid under a housing scheme. “Last week, authorities told me Rs 1.50 lakh has been credited to my bank account as the second instalment for constructing the house,” said Raju – who, incidentally, does not own a toilet in a state recently declared open defecation-free. “I have no ATM card and have to stand in queue every day to withdraw money. Now I can get only Rs 24,000 a week. With that money, I cannot carry out construction,” said Raju, a daily wager and small farmer. “And if I have to go every day to the bank, 15 km away, I will be deprived of my livelihood.”
On Monday, Raju and his wife Lakshmi set out for a tribal specialty hospital at Attappadi for the treatment of their daughter. Scores of families at Pudur panchayat in Kerala’s tribal belt of Attappady, like Raju, are worried that the ceiling on withdrawal will prevent construction of their houses.
The panchayat has only one bank branch, of PSU Canara Bank, opened in Pudur village two years ago. And the only ATM machine in the panchayat region is inside the branch office, which makes it accessible only during banking hours.
“After the currency crisis last week, the ATM was filled only on last Saturday. However, we have had no issues while distributing currency at the counter,” said branch manager Siva Prakash.
Most of those who turned up to exchange notes are farmers and daily wagers. Although many in the village got notes of Rs 2,000, they felt it wasn’t enough and difficult to spend. Farmers have stopped hiring as they cannot pay workers in Rs 500 notes.
“The land owner has asked me not to report as his farm,” said Seethammal, a daily wager, who has not gone to work since Thursday.
Traders at the panchayat junction say business is down, although many of them do accept the scrapped notes.”People don’t have smaller notes, many are yet to get the first Rs 2,000 note, so they come with the scrapped currencies,” said trader Jyothi Kumar. “I have no option but to accept them. I can exchange the notes later but if I turn them down now, I would lose business.”
Yet, trader A Harichandran welcomes the decision to scrap the notes. “It is a good move and some big people will fall in the crackdown against black money,” he said. “But the government should have ensured the supply of smaller notes. Then, the common man would have supported the move.”