[dropcap]O[/dropcap]n Thursday night, I had gone to the market with the newly introduced Rs. 2000 note and was trying to buy some commodity for obtaining change. From vegetable vendors on the street to shops in the mall, no one really wanted to accept that note due to lack of change to return. Finally, Reliance Digital outlet in the mall offered a suggestion to buy something worth Rs. 2000 or pay by card. However, my bank account too dried up. Imagine about the hardship of those people who exchanged Rs. 4000 in the denomination of Rs. 2000, which is almost their 15 days salary. How will they survive without change? Absolute confusion, outbursts of anger and frustration marked the 10 days of the currency ban, though most people started the day optimistically, reality of ‘no change’ caught up with passengers in railway stations and bus stands. Commuters were miffed at the awkwardness caused by the dearth of valid currencies.
Vegetable vendors, auto rickshaw drivers, bus conductors, shopkeepers, grocery shop owners, everybody demand exact change. Vendors on carts, who buy vegetables from the wholesale market are facing difficulties and are running short of cash. Fish vendors, daily wage workers in wholesale markets and street food vendors were among those hit by the decision. Everyone approaches them with Rs. 2000 note and they are scared to accept it. People have been queuing up for hours in front of banks, post offices and ATMs to deposit old notes and collect new ones. Putting Western ideas of Credit Cards to India will not work. USA is a 250 year old country with a population of 320 million. Sweden has a much smaller population. India is a 5000 year old country with most businesses run by traditional communities that are fishermen, goldsmiths, etc. Much of the transactions are in cash and on trust. Making transactions cashless will lead to closure of small shops and you will pay Rs. 100 for a cup of Coffee. PM Modi needs to understand that common man is facing hardships and his close associates escaped the trap and are tension-free soon after the announcement.
The most hit by the demonetization decision is daily wage workers who are almost jobless. Paying them in Rs. 50 or 100 notes every day is a big challenge. Many such workers are starving due to lack of employment opportunities. After 10 days also trade has been severely hit in the wholesale market like many others around the country. The sudden announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week aimed at curbing untaxed money and corruption has been widely praised but it has also spelt trouble for people in an economy where more than 80 per cent transactions are happening in cash. Several shops in major markets were only partially open during the day. As the day progressed, most of the shops closed down. The currency crisis had hit market badly.
Modi in his speech has clearly mentioned that Rs. 2,000 note will be regulated. Once people start looking at cashless ways to pay, Rs. 2,000 currency notes also could be easily withdrawn, adding that Rs. 50 and Rs. 100 notes would continue to be used till poor people and those living in rural economies moved to a cashless economy. The biggest mistake government did is that, without any planning or preparation, they just launched higher denomination notes and made market cashless. After lots of chaos and unrest, now they launched Rs. 500 and Rs. 2000 notes, which is yet to arrive in many banks. Day to day life got affected, children had to travel without their pocket money to school, people standing in banks and ATMs queues for hours, had to carry tiffin from home or starve for hours due to no change. Autorickshaw and taxi drivers almost parked their vehicles off the road.
Lack of small denomination currency also generated rumours of black marketing of essential commodities like salt as shopkeepers refused to provide change when they were offered higher denomination notes. There were reports of panicked customers flocking to market as rumours flew thick and immediately salt has gone out of shelves and shopkeepers are selling it at a premium prices. People thronged the area to purchase salt. They were unable to offer change for higher denomination notes so when people came to purchase commodities like salt they offered to sell it without returning the change. For example, some shopkeepers asked for Rs. 500 for three kilogrammes of salt as they did not have change. This triggered panic that shopkeepers are black marketing essential commodities due to shortage.
Some currency mafias too are taking advantage of the situation, they are giving Rs. 1800 in change for accepting Rs. 2000 denomination note. Questions here arise, how these black marketers have small denomination notes in plenty? And for how long common people are going to suffer?
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