The Costs of Demonetisation: Choking Tribal Livelihoods; Grain Market Suffering

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

Credit: PTI

Credit: PTI

Locked out of savings

Thirty-five year old Mohammad Farooq, who hails from Bihar, has been working as a rickshaw-puller much of his life in Delhi. Even before demonetisation, he and his wife had been saving up to buy an e-rickshaw. However, after the announcement, they had rushed to deposit their old notes in their ‘Jan Dhan’ account, so as to not lose their savings. However, when they came to withdraw the amount, the bank reported that their account had been ‘locked’.

According to the Huffington Post the bank officials told them to submit papers to shift their money to a general account and now the couple can only wait as they are stuck in this predicament.

Rural employment frozen

The Times of India reported that multiple businesses have come to halt following demonetisation in rural Uttar Pradesh. Daily-wage labourers, many of whom don’t have an account, have been without a job for the past two months. Since all of their payments are carried out in cash, the demonetisation induced cash crunch has hit demand. “I used to earn up to Rs 10,000 a month when the going was good. After the note ban, I haven’t got a single day’s work,” Babu Khan, a mason from Khanpur village said. “People don’t have cash to get a house built or even to get repairs done. They have postponed this work to later when cash becomes available,” explained Nazim, another mason.

Choking tribal livelihoods

Demonetisation has affect the livelihood of tribals in Wayanad, the Times of India reported. Tribals who earn a living by selling minor forest produce in the area are struggling to make ends meet with a lack of access to digital methods of payment and demand going down due to restrictions on cash withdrawal. “More than a currency crisis, the situation is becoming a humanitarian crisis. The tribal families who come here after painstakingly collecting the minor forest produce by spending up to four to five days in the jungles are forced to return empty handed as we have no money to procure it. It is really a very sad situation,” Rajitha K. A., an official at the Scheduled Tribes Cooperative Society and Kallur in Sultan Bathery said.

“But now the business is down to a bare minimum due to the weekly currency withdrawal limit of Rs 24,000 applicable to the society. We are making part-payment for tribal people, who are desperate to hand over the collected produce to us,” she added.

Grain market suffering

The grain market in Bhind, Madhya Pradesh wears a deserted look. Traders are not able to raise cash with the withdrawal limits still in place. This has effectively reduced the demand for grains which farmers get to the market. “A truckload of oilseeds goes for Rs 10-12 lakh, and bajra for around Rs 2 lakh. How will merchants raise that much money when the withdrawal limit for current accounts is Rs 50,000?” asks Sachin Sharma, a transporter, adding that his three trucks have been sitting idle for days.

Moreover, at the mandi office, workers haven’t been paid their dues. “We have not got our salaries for the past five months,” says Ashok Kumar Shakya, a clerk at the mandi office, the Times of India reported.

Dampening the Uttarayan mood

Ahead of the Uttarayan kite-flying festival in Surat, people have been losing interest, the Times of India reported. Cutting back on expenses due to the cash crunch, kite sellers are expecting lower sales this year. Prakash Saddiwala, a kite seller with a famous shop in the city, said, “The business in the market is just 50% of what it used to be. There are four days left for the festival and the ambience of excitement is missing. We hope the business and the mood changes for good in the next three-four days.”

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