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NEFT-ed, PayTM-ed, Chequ-ed, Credit-ed to stay #Cashless



Today is a month since the historic demonetization move by the Government of India. Here’s a personal account of how we have managed and the challenges that still remain –

The day it was announced, we checked the number of Rs. 500 notes with us and found that we just had 6 notes. In 100’s and 10’s we had about Rs. 1300/- and the coins would have added another Rs. 300/- to the kitty. We used one of the 500 rupee notes to buy some vegetables from our shop keeper inside our condominium complex. The balance 2500/- was given at the fuel pumps for diesel. Personally we don’t have a single paisa of unaccounted money so it didn’t matter at all and very importantly, for many years now we have been using the credit card and online transactions to pay for most things. The only cash transactions were for the salaries that we paid to our maid, the dhobi and the guy who cleaned the car.

For the rest of the month – all our fruits and vegetable purchases were made with a cheque and NEFT transfer. For the past four days we have paid the shop keeper using PayTM as he has setup the PayTM account !! The fun fact is – Gulzar who is the owner of the vegetable and fruit shop took our help to pay for his mandi purchase using PayTM. We also taught him how to make the payment on his own.

We even travelled to Jaipur for a few days and managed to buy our favourite Rawat ke Kachori on our credit card. Back in Gurgaon, we had to buy some medicines and went to Galleria. Again all the medical stores accepted PayTM, with varying cash back offers. We had to go to visit Udayan Care at Lajpat Nagar and used Uber, paid through PayTM. The one day that the Government announced that only senior citizens could go to the bank and withdraw money from their account, we went with Amma to withdraw cash from her account. We never went to any ATM or bank before or after that date. The idea was to see how far we could manage without using cash. We had a lot of photocopying and scanning work that we had to do and we always go to this shop in Super Mart -1 and Atul who owns the shop accepts cheques, credit card and PayTM. So no cash needed there. Our Dhobi is ready to shift to PayTM or his bank’s payment system the minute he is able to open an account. The milk vendor’s son has promised to move to online payment as soon as they are able to open an account so that should happen within a week or so.

Our maid just asked for Rs. 200 last month to manage her cash needs. She works in a school as well and gets her salary into her bank account. This month alone she wanted the salary in cash to pay her landlord as he refused to accept an online transfer. We ordered groceries on Big Basket and other websites – all of whom allow us to pay online.

Now the interesting part is to see how merchants changed their behaviour – in the first few days after the demonetization, Bikanerwala refused to accept online payments if you ordered through Zomato. Then for the past three weeks they have started to accept online payments ! This is a restaurant that had only the “Cash-On-Delivery” model all this while. Once the toll plazas were operational they too accepted toll through credit card, while some of them didn’t. Hopefully that situation eases out sooner. Yesterday, I went to get a haircut at my regular salon and asked Wilson if there was any dip in his business – the answer was no, since most of his customers paid by card anyway. He did have challenges to pay the salaries as most of his employees preferred to get the money in cash even if they had bank accounts :). He was planning on giving some folks a self cheque so they could withdraw the money rather than paying by cash.

You can dismiss this as the experience of an urban person who can use a credit/debit card, PayTM etc etc. But a daily wage earner in Chennai, a woman who sells vegetables to earn a living, has switched to INDPAY, the Indian bank’s instant payment app and is accepting Rs. 50 and Rs. 100 online ! I saw several autowallahs with the PayTM banner stuck on their autos.

There are grumblers and I don’t only mean the rabble rousers whom we have elected … who won’t move their little finger to help their maid manage cashlessly, but will constantly deride the Government and Narendra Modi because they don’t like him. Nothing can be done for these people. I can only say, open your eyes to the benefits that the demonetization drive has already brought –

  1. Kashmir is back to being the “jannat” it was meant to be. No stones are being pelted and children are back in school. However much the father-son  Abdullah duo tries to fan emotions and get Pakistan off the hook, NOTHING can explain the sudden calm, except that it was funded by the India-loving Pakistan.
  2. Malda, the counterfeit capital of India is silent and there is a pall of gloom…. Mamata di and Derek O’Brien can scream their lungs out and use dumb theories to support their antics, the fact is their stash is up in smoke and the supplier is dead.
  3. Arvind Kejriwal now has to work if he wants to remain relevant – he has reached this far by conning everyone, and now suddenly, the media-created-phenomenon is like a helium balloon with an empty gas tank. He can choose to crash land or continue to provide entertainment.
  4. Maoists surrender in droves – cash strapped Maoists have no other option but to surrender! Read this article – http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Demonetisation-leads-to-largest-Maoist-surrenders/articleshow/55675983.cms.
  5. Small vendors and shop keepers who never wanted to get into the banking system, are doing so now.
  6. Nearly Rs. 9 lakh crore of the demonetised currency has been deposited in the banks. https://www.quora.com/How-many-banned-notes-have-been-deposited-in-banks-so-far-after-the-demonetisation-How-many-more-is-RBI-expecting-and-how-much-will-they-save. Not that all of it is black money, but it ensures that unaccounted money will now be in the banking system and getting accounted for !

This post is not about how wonderful the demonetization move has been – there have been problems and several issues have to be addressed still. The point is what are we, the educated, urban, smart citizens of India doing to help the change? It is obviously beneficial, but needs help from all of us to make it work. Besides helping in cashless transactions, also stop paying bribes, stop paying the traffic police on the side, stop paying extra for that movie ticket, stop encouraging touts who get you the passport and driving license in one week when you can get it online in lesser time. All those activities generate unaccounted money. Continue to complain and rant against Mr. Modi, but stopping these things will benefit you and your children, not him. You can always vote against him in 2019…. and get the vacantly-smiling dodo elected!! 

Jai Hind.

Some helpful links –

The most current update on demonetization – https://factly.in/latest-updates-demonetization-rs-500-rs-1000-notes/

5 lakh accounts opened for artisans – http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/5-lakh-accounts-opened-for-artisans-for-wage-transfer/articleshow/55884998.cms

 

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Categories: Daily ReflectionsTags: , , , ,

4 comments

  1. You trust the banking system and electronics more than I do. I don’t believe it’s good for the populace to be so dependent on the banks. I suspect commodity money (bartering) will become more commonplace. I also believe a cashless society will give rise to a black market much larger than we see now.

    • Katharine, my feeling is each country evolves a distinct form of economy which can have some elements in common with another country but there is a huge cultural aspect which impacts it. For instance in India, small shop keepers (mom and pop stores) still give credit – families buy their groceries for the entire month and then settle the accounts once a month. The younger population is very internet savvy – we have 60% of the population that is really young. A farmer’s wholesale market decided to shift to a credit system overnight because they all know each other for many many many years. A mother collects gold for her daughter – thats the major form of savings. The Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes that got demonetised were actually the means of all illegal transactions, and they were counterfeited the most. The worst was Pakistan making $70 million each year by counterfeiting our notes :):). Most of our banks are not private, they are government or cooperative owned and unlike the US, our culture is a savings culture – most people do not spend as much. We like to save money first and then spend. Taking loans is frowned upon still. For instance my dad was horrified when we took a loan to buy our condo. So lot of differences and the banks are trustworthy. They cannot shut shop like a private enterprise and there are checks and balances in place to support them. Also banks are predominantly risk averse so lending is done with a lot of scrutiny. Having said all this, there are huge loopholes, corrupt practices and loan sharks etc but the overall system is different so a cashless or less cash society is better for us.

      • Thanks for the explanation. I contend that while there are cultural differences, if India goes the way of the US, the mom-and-pop operations will be squeezed out over time. The international central bankers and the international corporations are not bound by national loyalties and play governments against each other. It’s to their advantage to promote a cashless society, but the little guy–the guy who can’t afford a bank account, for instance–loses.

        If it is still legal to trade in gold in India, more power to you. That’s not true in the US, not since FDR. Also, if Indians scorn debt, good for them. However, it took less than a generation for Americans to forget the frugality learned (or reinforced) in the Depression. As Susan Freinkel so astutely noted in “Plastic: A Toxic Love Story,” Americans had to be taught to be wasteful. Now we are masterful at it.

  2. By the way, thanks for letting us know how it is in India. I wasn’t aware that this change had been made, but I’ve heard of other countries trying to do the same thing.

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