Rights

The Costs of Demonetisation: Delayed Cremation; Lost Rural Jobs

A daily round-up on the human impact of demonetisation.

People exchange their old Rs 500 and 1000 notes at a SBI branch in New Delhi. Credit: PTI

People exchange their old Rs 500 and 1000 notes at a SBI branch in New Delhi. Credit: PTI

Postponed cremation in Noida

Munni Lal, a 65-year-old vegetable vendor in Noida, had to spend 24 hours scouring the city in order to try and gather enough money for his wife’s cremation, Hindustan Times reported. The two lived in a slum settlement in Noida’s sector 9. Phoolmati, Munni Lal’s wife, died on Monday afternoon after a prolonged illness.

The couple had Rs 15,000 in the bank, Munni Lal told Hindustan Times, but he was unable to withdraw any money until an entire 24 hours later. “I was waiting in the queue at Bank of India’s Sector 9 branch for over three hours on Monday, but in vain. I requested the bank staff to give me some money from my account to perform the last rites of my wife, but nobody heard my request. They thought that I was lying and said that the bank was closed for the day,” Munni Lal said. He was forced to keep his wife’s body at home on a slab of ice all night.

On Tuesday, relatives, neighbours and friends gathered outside the bank to protest, also calling in the media. It was only after pressure mounted that the bank released cash to Munni Lal, his neighbour told the newspaper. “Munni Lal was devastated after not getting cash from his account. He repeatedly requested neighbours to lend him some money, but we were also out of cash. We finally decided to inform politicians and the media about the incident. After pressure mounted, the bank finally gave him the cash,” said Abdul Khan, his neighbour.

The branch manager said the bank had run out of cash and gave Munni Lal money as soon as they received it.

Rural jobs lost in Puducherry

Demonetisation has brought construction work across rural areas in Puducherry to a standstill, The Hindu reported, leaving thousands without work or money.

“After the Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes became invalid, nobody wants to spend money. When there is work, we get Rs 600 daily. But no one has called us for work in the past three weeks,” D. Sitrarasu, a mason in Bahour, told The Hindu.

Construction work is now an important source of the income in the area, after real estate deals cut into agricultural fields. “The demonetisation has hit us really hard,” K. Kaliyan, a construction labourer, told the newspaper.

A delayed monsoon has also meant those who do have agricultural land have not been able to cultivate their land. Even those who have managed to cultivate are having a hard time doing so. “There is no money in the five nationalised bank branches in our area. With Rs 2000 notes which we got earlier, we are unable to buy anything. The central government has taken this step to curb black money and hope it succeeds in the endeavour. We hope that we will get money in a few days,” a farmer, Kaliyamurthy, told The Hindu.

Other incidents

Since it was announced, demonetisation has been connected to one tragedy after another. Within ten days of the announcement, more than 55 people were reported to have died in demonetisation-related incidents. A 25-year-old man committed suicide in Delhi after not being able to exchange his money; a 70-year-old man died waiting in line to change his money; a 53-year-old bank employee died of a ‘stress-induced’ heart attack in Maharashtra; an 18-month-old baby died in Vishakhpatnam when her parents did not have enough cash to buy medicined and the pharmacy would not accept old notes.

In addition to the numerous deaths, people across the country, in both rural and urban areas, have been facing different kinds of hardship. Production and sales have fallen in different sectors, daily-wage workers have lost out on work or are being paid in old currency which they cannot use, people without bank accounts have had to exchange their savings in old currency notes at discounted rates and farmers are not being able to sell their goods.