The Costs of Demonetisation: Innovative Bribing, Deserted Markets

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

People are struggling to get their money exchanged. Credit: Reuters

People are struggling to get their money exchanged. Credit: Reuters

Lifestyle changes

Demonetisation has worsened lives for farmers in the Sheopur district in Badoda tehsil, according to a report by the Hindustan Times. The lone State Bank of India branch in the area, which serves over 50 villages, has come under even more pressure since the move was announced. This situation is worsened by the fact that farmers have only been able to withdraw Rs 4,000 instead of the weekly limit of Rs 24,000 owing to the severe cash crunch affecting the nation. Farmers have been forced to sleep outside the bank, waiting for their chance to withdraw money. Shankar Banjara of Salmanya village said, “I need Rs 10,000 for treatment of my ears and eyes. I waited in a queue for two days but the cash finished before my turn came.” Farmer Halku Banjara of the same village said he needed money for his son’s wedding next month.

Artistes in West Bengal have also been severely hit by the move. They are being booked for fewer shows and there has been a reduction in the number of movies that are released every week – all of this has forced alterations in their lifestyles. Actor-director Chandan Sen told the Times of India, “People in the theatre world are supposed to be last benchers. Till middle of December, we were panic-stricken. I had to cancel my show of ‘Ora Aatjon’ on November 13. Apart from emotional loss, the financial loss was Rs 20,000.” According to Sen, Bengali theatre is trying to “limp back to normalcy” though things still look “very bleak”.

Bribes find a way

While demonetisation has made the arranging of bribes difficult for the time being, the Economic Times reported on how people have gotten around the problem by paying bribes in instalments. One such attempt by an income tax officer in Visakhapatnam,  who was allegedly attempting to receive illegal gratification in instalments landed him in CBI custody, CBI sources said. B. Srinivasa Rao had allegedly demanded a bribe of Rs 1.5 lakh from a person who had given his plot for redevelopment to a builder. The person was unable to arrange it due to the monetary restrictions of demonetisation. Rao asked the person to pay in instalments, but the officer was caught while receiving the first instalment of Rs 30,000.

Brass industry loses shine 

Livemint reported on how the Moradabad brass industry is losing pace in this demonetised world. On Peerzada road in Moradabad, which is the hub of the industry, men skulk near doorways, hammering metal plates or carving with steady hands while others are busy welding. The industry generates $1 billion in revenue annually – and is one of the largest handicrafts exporting industries in the country. “We have completed all our export orders for Christmas but in January, the exhibitions start where we usually showcase our designs. These exhibitions take place in cities across the world like Frankfurt etc. The worry is that they will be unable to take orders,” said Prashant Garg of Gargsons Exports, one of the largest export houses in the city.

Agri-labourers bear the brunt 

The New Indian Express reported on the effect of demonetisation on Telangana’s agricultural labourers. Demonetisation has affected the daily wage labourers that belong to other states. The workers who came from states such as Andhra Pradesh and Odisha to Timmajipeta and Tandur in Telangana to pick cotton and chilli are now facing numerous problems. Around 80 workers haven’t been paid wages for 45 days now. Many businessmen paid farmers their wages using cheques. This doubled the farmers’ problems as they could not transfer the wages meant for the labourers owing to their lack of legitimate bank accounts.  “Each of the farmers owes hefty sums to the labourers. We have plenty of money in our bank accounts but are not able to pay the same to the labourers. Sometimes despite standing in queues for the whole day, we are not able to withdraw the money from the banks,” said P. Malla Reddy, a farmer from Timmajipeta.
Markets seem deserted
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The Azadpur mandi in Delhi makes for a dreary picture these days. Asia’s largest market for wholesale fruits and vegetables has been dealing with a steep drop in business since traders have reduced their demand for products as a response to the reduction in market demand. The Times of India reported that the mandi looked empty as it went around the market interviewing sellers.”I am left with only 10% of my former business—the whole market is facing a similar situation,” Mohammad Nazare Alam, a fruit trader in Azadpur Mandi told the newspaper. “If my business can run wholly on Paytm or plastic cards, I am ready to do that,” Girish Chadda, a trader. “We have always paid labourers, truck drivers, push-cart men in cash alone. Try paying the auto, rickshaw pullers, and the coolie on the railway platform using a card. Then come back to me—we will take the conversation forward,” Chadda added.