The Costs of Demonetisation: Two Die While Waiting To Withdraw Cash; Poultry Industry Takes a Hit

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

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A currency notes exchanger has put up a sign of not accepting demonetised currency notes at his roadside stall in Amritsar. Credit: PTI

Two die while in queue to withdraw cash

The death of a 70-year-old farmer on Saturday while he was waiting in a queue to withdraw money from a bank in Tamil Nadu has lead to widespread anger in his village.

According to an Indian Express report, M. Subramanian, who was a resident of Vaazkhai village in Thanjavur district and worked as a daily wage labourer, suffered a heart attack.

An inspector at the Papanasam police station in the district said that Subramanian reached an Indian Bank branch in the morning and stood in the long queue with his wife 62-year-old wife Thaiyal Nayagi.

“We are told that he stood in line for a long time. He collapsed immediately after he was given the bank challan to withdraw cash. There was a huge crowd since morning,” the officer told Indian Express. “Our officers arrived at the spot and called the doctor. But it was too late, efforts to revive him failed. He died on the floor, next to the counter.”

This death, according to the New Indian Express, has lead to anger among villagers who gathered at his house on Sunday.

Forty-five-year-old G. Saminathan, one of the five sons-in-laws of Subramanian and a farmer from the village, alleged that the banks in the district allowed the withdrawal of only Rs 2,000 at a time. This practice, he told the New Indian Express, forced farmers to undertake multiple visits to the branches that are often far away from the village.

A 52-year-old state government employee in Kolkata, Kallol Roychowdhury, also died on Saturday while in an ATM queue to withdraw cash. According to The Hindu, his wife said that he died at the counter after failing to collect a “few thousand rupees” for his son’s admission in a local school.

His wife further alleged that he often returned home from the bank without money even after standing in line for long hours while his son’s school refused to accept cheques.

She told The Hindu, “He was desperate to withdraw a good few thousand rupees for admission of our son. But after a month’s effort, we could only save about one thousand rupees, as he could not withdraw much cash.”

Poultry farmers suffer

The farm gate value of chicken in Maharashtra – the price at which a farmer sells his produce to the retailer – fell by nearly 40% since demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes was announced nearly a month ago, the Indian Express reported.

The farm gate price declined from Rs 65-70 per kg to Rs 49-50 in markets across Maharashtra.

Kunal Pathre, a poultry farmer, told Indian Express, “Our industry runs purely on cash and demonetisation has hit our business real hard. The demand has come down as families are buying things of utility and items like chicken are luxury.”

Poultry owners claim that nearly 85% of those who operate retail chicken outlets are Muslims and the penetration of banking activity is less in them. “A bulk of our buyers are not part of the banking system and rely purely on cash to run their operations,” another poultry owner said. “Demonetisation has hit them really hard causing a severe disruption in their purchasing power.”

Since the Rs 1,00,000 crore Indian poultry industry in general deals primarily in cash, according to a Business Standard report, it has been badly hit because of liquidity tightness following the note ban.

Not only have the prices of chicken and eggs declined sharply, poultry farmers have also slowed breeding of chicks to lower their cost.

Ramesh Khatri, the president of Poultry Federation of India, told Business Standard, “Poultry is a cash business. Because of the lack of cash liquidity at the hands of consumers, poultry products’ demand has slumped. The entire season is lost. Chicken farmers are now opting to sell the livestock without building their inventory for future consumption.”

Unable to exchange old notes, woman sets herself ablaze and dies

A 45-year-old daily wage labourer, Razia died on Sunday, days after setting herself ablaze in Aligarh after allegedly failing to exchange old notes.

An Indian Express report stated that Razia immolated herself on the evening of November 20, when, according to her family, she failed to exchange six 500 rupee notes “despite attempting to do so at different branches of banks in the old city area for five days.”

Cabbage prices hit 

The farmers in rural Maharashtra are facing the brunt of the note ban as the cash crunch has led to a steep fall in prices of farm produce. According to the Hindustan Times, several agriculture markets in the state that primarily dealt in cash, are now working at only 50 % or less of their capacities this month.

A cabbage farmer in the state, for example, sold his Rs 80,000 worth of produce for just Rs 6,000 due to the cash crunch.

“The money I would have got from the cabbage would have gone into planting of pomegranates in this season, paying back one installment of loan, running the house and paying labourers,” Sanjay Gunjal told Hindustan Times. “Now I have been left with half a field of cabbage that even the trader did not bother to take and will have to plough over it.’’