[dropcap]I[/dropcap]f you remember, 3.2 million debit cards were compromised; SBI, HDFC Bank, ICICI, YES Bank and Axis were worst hit in the month of October. The issue has not been addressed for l years on the safety of debit and credit card transactions. This was the biggest financial fraud witnessed in the recent years. Everyone was talking about debit card information stolen from SBI and other banks. Now, they are wondering why digital transactions are not increasing? If you want to increase digital transactions, then you must provide better security and infrastructure. Stringent steps like issuing new cards were also undertaken. Just a month later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is motivating people to move to a cashless society. Is the cyber security in place? While a card is cloned, it takes several months to recover someone’s hard-earned money from the banks. How can people be assured that swiping cards at small shops and vendors will not be at a risk to revealing our card details?
We are boasting about going cashless economy but basic issues are yet to be addressed. People have no job, youngsters are becoming vulnerable. Government needs to generate jobs, so that they can earn money and then talk big bang on surgical strikes on black money. India’s unemployment data shows the highest in the last six years. Government hasn’t taken into account the facts and ground realities at hand. They are showing attitude such that they have zero accountability towards this which makes cashless drive meaningless. We don’t have proper infrastructure such as security, internet speed and resources to handle mass cashless transactions.
Internet connectivity is needed even for the e-wallets. In order to convince people to do cashless transactions, the cost of the internet should be lowered and free WiFi should also be provided at public places. The data usage is the biggest challenge; it is still not affordable for the common man, as an internet charge in India continues to remain substantially high. There is no WiFi at public places and if people do not get their monthly data packs recharged, they will be unable to make online payments. Since the day demonetisation was announced, people are trying to use more card transactions to save that dreaded trip to the bank and to save the last penny of the hard cash in hand. However, a sudden surge in card transactions has led to connectivity issues. Several people have faced trouble while standing in line to pay for a transaction at a shop when the card machines have stopped working due to an overload on the network. Connectivity issues must be resolved before dreaming about a cashless society.
Ours is a unique country where people who can’t read, use smartphones and satellite data for farming. We will have our own definition of “cashless economy” and our usage of technology for transactions will determine how the rest of the world conducts business 10 years from now. In India, most of the transactions are in cash rather than in cashless modes like cheques/ drafts/ credit/ debit cards since a long period of time. There are only few middle class income groups who opt for cashless transactions. Most of the businessmen still prefer only cash dealings for want of proper security and easy liquidity and want to avoid tax at all costs. The central government should frame a law to make all retail and wholesale transactions only through cashless means like NEFT/RTGS. By announcing a ban on the old Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 500 notes and by imposing a cap on withdrawals from banks and ATMs, Modi might have glided the idea of a cashless society. However, is India ready for a cashless society yet? While online transactions will allow the government to keep a track on payments and lessen the possibility of black money in the economy, is it feasible to be dependent on online transactions rather than cash payments in India?
Before promoting a cashless society, efforts need to be taken to educate people on how to use phones for transactions. Old people maintain secrecy about their transactions; they generally don’t make things public about their savings and accounts. But online trades may compromise their privacy. The younger generation of India is attached to their phones and gadgets; computer literacy among the people above the 50-age group is still low. Not many people are comfortable using computers or mobile phones and depend on their children when it comes to using the appliances. Moreover, several companies have come up with new and inexpensive phones but they remain unaffordable for most of the population in the country. More affordable options should be launched by the government for people to buy smartphones for cashless transactions. The figures of 1.3 million Point-of-Sale (PoS) terminals in a country where industry estimates put the entire merchant base at around 30 million, proves there must be more structural issues hindering plastic money. With so many challenged, do you think citizens of our country who were not given time to prepare themselves for new economic revolution will be comfortable with cashless dealings?
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