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Monday, January 24, 2022

Nandurbar: Tribals feel the pinch of demonetisation

Many villagers still don’t have bank accounts; beneficiaries of government schemes also hit

Written by Tabassum Barnagarwala | Nandurbar |
January 22, 2017 1:56:34 am
demonetisation, demonetisation crisis, demonetisation news, demonetisation cash crunch, tribals demonetisation, india news The queue outside the Central Bank’s Dhadgaon branch. Tabassum Barnagarwala

Darkhiya Pawari of Trishul village woke up at 3 am, walked 5 km and then took a state transport bus at 6 am to reach Dhadgaon at 7 am. The nearest bank is 15 km from his hut. Pawari, a tribal — and a beneficiary of the government’s Gharkul Yojana — travels daily to withdraw money to construct his house, but does not get more than Rs 2,000 from the bank.

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“Before note-bandi, the government had deposited Rs 1 lakh in my account for constructing my house. I withdrew Rs 35,000 and next day demonetisation was announced. I deposited the entire amount but since then I go to bank every day to withdraw money,” said Pawari, a farmer. He has to pay for the cement, labourers and brick supplier daily. Despite a good bank balance, he has little cash with him.

Two months after demonetisation, the impact of a squeeze on cash is still severe in the tribal areas of Nandurbar. The worst affected areas are Akkalkuwa, Dhadgaon, and Toranmal, all tribal hamlets sandwiched between the hills and the Narmada river.

In the tribal hamlet of Dhadgaon, two banks — State Bank of India and Central Bank — open at 11 am. By 9 am, stones are neatly lined outside the bank gate, one stone for one person, for people who start queuing up as early as 6 am.

Not just farmers, the family planning services of the health department have also been hit by demonetisation. Until November last year, a female patient would be paid Rs 150 in cash for undergoing a tubectomy (sterilisation) procedure. After demonetisation, the district has started payments through cheque. Of 2,083 tubectomy surgeries done since November in Nandurbar, only 3 per cent tribal women have bank accounts to encash cheques.

demonetisation, demonetisation crisis, demonetisation news, demonetisation cash crunch, tribals demonetisation, india news Stones lined outside the SBI branch marking space for people who start queuing up early in the morning.

Tribal women who were given Rs 700 cheques under the Janani Suraksha Yojana for institutional deliveries and those given Rs 4,000 cheques under Manav Vikas Yojana usually return the cheques as they have no bank account or a nearby bank to avail cashless services. In Dhadgaon, a wad of cheques returned by tribals who have no bank accounts lies with the taluka health officer.

In Toranmal, demonetisation has hit several anganwadis who locally procure eggs for malnourished children under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). Anganwadi worker Shakuntala Chawdhary said, “It costs Rs 2,000 for purchasing eggs stock. We have to walk 9 km uphill to first reach the bank to withdraw cash and then go to Shahada some 60 km away to purchase eggs. I have to delay purchase when there is no money.”

A local medical officer said three bank accounts of tribal women were opened in January in Toranmal. “But for them to avail Rs 150 for sterilisation, they had to pay Rs 300 to open an account,” the doctor said.

In remote Thuwani, 18 pregnant women are registered with primary health post, of which only four have bank accounts and can avail incentives for mother and child nutrition.
Even as a drive by the government to push for a cashless economy is under way, tribals in these areas argue they do not even know how to withdraw cash from ATMs. “The two banks here get little money, which gets over before the day ends. The bank does not give us more than Rs 2,000 due to shortage,” said Sukhlal Pawara, a farmer in Dhadgaon. He reached Dhadgaon the night before and slept at the bus stop to be the first in line when the bank opens.

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