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November 14th, 2016

And another cash-less week in India begins…

The so called “surgical strike” against black money in India continues, and as we enter a second week of most of us being cashless, the whole thing is taking a distinct turn for the weird.

Some background first.

Last Tuesday night, without any warning, the PM demonetarised the Rs500 and the Rs1000 bank notes.

In a country which largely uses cash, this was truly a major blow.  To the holders of black or illegal money, no doubt, but more desperately, it was a major blow to the millions of people who now have no cash.

Even though the old notes will be exchanged until Dec 30, the fact remains that the roll out of the new notes has been woefully inadequate. People are spending hours upon hours upon days standing in serpentine queues at the bank to get money.  Their money, never forget.  ATMs are not yet calibrated for the new Rs2000 notes  – how was that possible?

For a privileged person like myself, the pain isn’t honestly all that bad. A lot of our payments are online or by cheque. When I needed cash last week, because we really were down to our last Rs130 in usable notes, I called the bank and after a day or so, was able to cash a cheque.

But for the unbanked, the situation is getting more serious day on day.

How many days can a daily wage earner spend standing in a queue to be able to exchange his now useless bank notes for new notes?

There are stories of deaths and heart attacks in queues.  Of hospitals refusing treatment because poor people only had old notes. Bastards.

And yet, surprisingly, in a country which often has a collective very short fuse, with north India and Delhi being, perhaps, leaders in the bad-temper stakes….there has been little anger, and a surprising amount of understanding.

The man on the street clearly wants an end to corruption and black money.

Which makes our PM’s histrionics in 2 speeches yesterday truly mystifying.

Almost without exception, everyone to whom I have spoken about this move by the PM has been supportive, although admittedly there are a few grumbles, the longer the lines are and the longer people have to go without cash.  But I repeat, most people are with him, so the dramatics were actually uncalled for.

“I will not be cowed down…even if you burn me alive.”

What on earth was he talking about?

Most people agree with you, sir, so why cast yourself in the role of an embattled martyr?

“I left my home and everything for the country.”

What?

Why the drama, Mr. Modi?  Why the voice-choking-with-emotion?

As I said at the outset, weird.

Oh yes, I almost forgot.  Yesterday afternoon, I went to pay my outstandings at the local grocery store : he takes credit cards, thank the good Lord above.

Anyway, whilst paying, I had a somewhat strange chat with the friendly owner of the store. I spoke in Hindi and he replied in English, so there may well have been a certain amount lost in translation, but basically our conversation went like this.

I asked him if business was down.

No, he replied emphatically, the opposite,  Business is up.

“All my stock is Number 1, so there is no problem.”

No idea what he was talking about, but never mind.

I ploughed on, asking whether he had enough stock.

“I have a lot of stock, and it is all Number 1.  And my supplier is also Number 1, so there isn’t problem.”

Later, when I told my hubby about this rather strange exchange, he explained that Number 2 refers to black money, meaning, by inference, that Number 1 means white money : ie the local corner shop has stock in hand that has been legally paid for, and accounted for, and taxes paid upon.

So that’s what he meant 😛

This, by the way, was just one of the many, many queues in our local market:

img_0455

I tried and failed to get some more money on Saturday.

Sunday, since the banks were open for business, I called up, but they were politely firm –  it was chaotic and very crowded so could I wait another day?  (I could)

Today was a bank holiday.

So, tomorrow, I shall sally forth again to do battle.  We are having work done in the house, and it’s one thing not to pay the grocery bill for a few days, but the painters and electricians are a different kettle of fish, poor chaps.

28 comments to And another cash-less week in India begins…

  • yeah i also thought the histrionics were uncalled for, everybody well almost everybody is in favour of rooting out corruption, but i guess he want to mask the fact that they have bungled badly in the implementation part.

  • Ram Venkatraman, I think you are spot on! Sad that poor implementation might turn out to be counter-productive, because by and large everyone is largely supportive

  • Well I was in Chandigarh today and there wasn’t a parking spot available in the markets they were full of people in this “cashless society”, as I drove through the traffic jammed city people of all walks of life on foot and in luxury cars were out and about, if I didn’t know something was “going on” I wouldn’t have known. The City Beautiful was a buzzing and the crackers celebrating Gurpurab are nonstop. I now do not know who to believe, but seeing is believing

  • Just checked our (illegal!) rupees – mostly 500 notes! Oh well…

  • Jane I’ll email you. I have a cunning plan…

  • Dear Christine, I will describe you a bit of what king of hardship it requires to face an opposition full of corrupts( that have trucks of cash) and alsi to face criticism from their own people.
    He is a doctor, he is treating the nation..while he stiches the wounds..human nature is to curse and utter ill worlds.
    He left his home, his family for the nation! And yes that is emotional..and also when he is all geared up for Arvind Kejriwal and othet xyz jerks to get violent because their corruption money is gone! And thats why he said..even if you burn him alive.

  • Imagine a situation where your own family member critises you for your actions that will benifit the family in longer run but will cause inconvenience for the time being. And no matter your kids will play rebel but you will not back off..because you know the good.
    Whats wrong if you get emotional in that!! He is a human after all!

  • He is a star! He is laying the ground work for his future career after he is thrown out of power – Bollywood (perhaps Gollywood). Jayalalitha in reverse!

  • Gaurav I take your point, but he has such broad based support from all we mango people. If they get the cash moving in the next few days, then I think Mr. Modi will have scored a winner

  • He left his family long, long before he became the prime minister.. Enough of histrionics!

  • We all have to suffer a bit of inconvenience. If it wasn’t done as a surprise…the whole black money would have been adjusted. And who has that black money…we are not talking of people with merely 1 crore cash. We are talking of black marketers, under world, terrorism, maoist. And that sum is thousands of crores. All will be under control, lets be a little patient. Lets educate people about this new beginning…help build a super strong India. A Golden Sparrow like it used to be. See it this way…today you and Dawood Ibrahim are equally rich. May be you’re richer 🙂

  • Brinda ji, he has been serving the Nation since then. You must be aware of how Gujrat is ahead of all states and how.

  • I think the jury’s out on whether the move will achieve what it’s meant to achieve – but what’s clear is that preparation was virtually non-existent & implementation beyond hopeless. Not enough money, new notes don’t fit machines, no proper organisation of queues till today, spelling mistake on the 2000 note, etc. Think how different it would have been if the Germans or the Japanese had organised it!

  • Well Gaurav as I stand outside my bank, right now, all I can tell you is that there is a huge crowd, largely understanding of the issues, but fed up of queuing & poor bank organisation

  • Will improve 🙂 antibiotic is working.

  • such a major move involving 86% of the total currency in circulation has seen utterly shoddy implementation, no planning at all. They can’t say we are on a learning curve,

  • There is no spelling mistake on the 2000 rupee note .. Might be worthwhile to check before commenting

  • @Christine .. Will be better if you withdraw money on a check vs. ATM ..

  • Shweta Munjal Khanna I stood in line for 2 hours to get into the bank to cash my cheque. ATM not working. Now I have money but the banks need to organise & marshall people better

  • Yes, no spelling mistakes…. Konkani, Marathi languages also use Devanagiri alphabet

  • Agree .. its better to go to a bank in which you hold the account.

  • the man on the street knows why this was required. and he learns fast.

  • Shweta Munjal Khanna – thanks for the justified reprimand but my other points hold good!

  • Some people may be in panicking mode, some may be doing essential banking but I know my guys on daily wages haven’t really been to the bank since this all started. Guess because they were paid in the first week and bought all their rations that day. I’m not sure of the “whole story” that’s for sure.

  • Catriona Child Germans ? I experience train delays and missed connections….regularly. But when it comes to taxes , payments etc, German system is punitive and most ind live very stressed lives here.

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