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Poor are poorer, Rich are richer – the Gap Widens with Demonetization

December 8, 2016 Leave a comment

In between the swipes of credit cards and debit cards in ATMs, you will find many poor, maybe illiterate people, running around ATMs for the first time usage and there is no one to help. While Indian government has plans to build a cashless society, banks have no bandwidth to handle the queries of a large number of customers who are still unfamiliar with the technology.

I recently went to Mahabaleshwar and could clearly see the differences in struggles of these people and well to do people like us. We did not have the cash either so standing in line for cash was the only option just like them. The only difference was that while we reached ATM after a long wait, we were at least able to withdraw Rs. 2000 from ATM but those first-time users of ATM, who were forced by the government to adapt to the technologies, despite waiting for longer time, were unable to take out cash as they did not know how to use the ATM. There was no instruction sheet or a person to help them except those already in a queue.

Some thoughts trouble me after having an experience the effect of demonetization for some time. A careful observation revealed how ignorant is the system of today towards the needs of people who are illiterate, less educated, disabled, poor, old, or needy.

  • We were fortunate enough to seek help from the Hotel staff who was ready to take a credit card swipe for a transaction. Can these poor people even afford to go to a restaurant which has the facility of card swipe or would they still struggle on stalls for cash?
  • As a small-scale vendor like those selling vegetables, would you find people giving you cash or do you have to leave your vegetables as waste?
  • What about those farmers who are unable to get cash against their production?
  • As a first time user of ATM, do you have anyone to guide you or you are at the mercy of a person standing next to you to help or else?
  • While the decision of demonetization was abrupt, was the plan for managing the after effect was also abrupt? Or did government even think of a plan?

While demonetization has hardly affected big businessmen and well to families who had already adopted plastic money as their way of life, the real people who were severely affected by the decisions are the poor farmers, small vendors, uneducated and those not comfortable with technological advances.

People facing difficulties have become only scenarios and stories to talk about.

Think of an old lady in her 70’s. Throughout her life, she has been using cash. Her eye sight is too weak to even see what is written on the ATM screen and maybe she is not even educated enough. Would she be able to act independently at an ATM center? Who doesn’t know the story an old woman dying of heart attack because she was unable to convert her hard earned money into real cash?

Think of a poor farmer who has been selling his production against cash but because of lack of cash, is unable to sustain the living? Farmer suicides are nothing new and our nation has already experienced it in past. Will this impact not increase such incidences?

Think of a housewife, probably tortured by her husband or in-laws, who have been saving money for her life and all of a sudden, all her savings go to whom?

The rich already have gold, properties, stocks, and other assets to invest their money in. Most of the cash is circulated among the smaller people with lesser money. I remember the day when the demonetization was announced. While I heard people telling stories of so much cash, I saw my wallet and there was only one note to exchange. Am I poor? I am just middle-class independent woman who is educated and uses plastic money more often than cash. I was not affected until I met people who did not use plastic money and demanded cash against the services they offered me.

Another observation – If I was to stand for 3 hours in the queue, I can work on my mobile, use various applications to complete my tasks, do a video conferencing to conduct a meeting, read books on Kindle, check and answer my business emails, and do a lot more. What about people who earn daily wages and to get petty cash, they have to stand in line for hours, losing either their work hours or their sleep?

What I can see as impacts of this sudden demonetization is – Poor are getting poorer, middle class is still in middle, rich will get richer, helpless would go even more helpless – The GAP WIDENS!

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