Though the intentions of mutating Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes into illegal tender over for the country’s economy appear to be positive, the move has not been received well by many. My City Links talks to a few caught in the chaos and long queues, to find out their reactions to Modi’s surgical strike on India’s monetary system and how it has affected them.When Ekta Patnaik, a homemaker in Cuttack visited a few grocery stores at the local market, she was shocked to find that she could purchase goods worth Rs. 900 in exchange for an old Rs. 1000 note. Her new Rs 2,000 note didn’t allow her to buy anything worth less than that amount as nobody was willing to give her back the balance amount. Neither did she have enough Rs. 100 notes.
“I feel exploited for the black money that someone else possesses. Whatever money I have is from my savings out of the household expense. I try hard to make ends meet,” she rues. She wonders aloud how her maid or even a daily wage earner might be enduring through this situation.
True indeed for Lakshmi Dora who earns Rs. 300 per day working as a daily wage labourer. “This whole money exchange thing initially created a lot of problems for us and we faced difficulty in arranging change money. So our contractor is giving us money once in two days. Generally, we meet our expenses through small change amounts but this action taken by Modi has put us in trouble. I cannot manage wasting a day’s wage standing in the bank. At least our contractor is helping us out in the situation,” complains a confused Lakshmi. She thinks that such decisions should not be taken because more than rich people, it is the poor people who suffer. “Or the government should be flexible with us in these conditions,” she quips innocently.
Meanwhile, the Unit- I market area in Bhubaneswar, the capital’s largest market, has witnessed a conspicuous drop in overall business. “Stocks are lying idle with us and new currency is still not in free circulation. Because we frequently use higher denomination notes in our business, rendering them illegal has negatively impacted our business. Even though customers have other notes they wanted to dispose all their 500/1000 notes. Although we do not want to accept them, we cannot resist from taking them. How long shall we deny business?,” says Gaya Swain, Secretary of Unit – I market.
Back in Cuttack, Arta Swain, a vegetable vendor from Kendrapada says, “I am happy that Modi will at last be successful in extracting black money from the rich and corrupt people but then my small business too has gone for a toss. My sales have come down by nearly 60-70 percent as people now prefer buying vegetables from outlets like Reliance Fresh where they can pay with card.”
A similar collective sentiment was shared by the small traders in Baliyatra who felt demonetisation has been more of a trouble for them. Most of them complained about the fact that they would miss doing business if they spent the day at the banks. Also being present in their stalls did not help much as they could barely provide their customers with change amounts in cash. Nor did they have swiping machines for customers who wanted to make card payments.
Not only the small traders but owners of cinema halls too are complaining of a drastic decline in their business even as many big budget films are releasing in this quarter. Dipu Samantray, owner of Grand Cinema in Cuttack says, “When there is a cash shortage, entertainment would come last on their list. Since demonetisation has come into effect, we haven’t seen more than 4-5 people visit our theatre. Hope normalcy resumes soon, so that we get back to business.”
For a local vendor like Santosh Mahala, there has been a lot of expenditure but hardly any income for the past two weeks. He says, “Due to the whole chaos, people are taking things in credit and they haven’t paid yet. I have a small shop, and it’s an everyday earn and spend affair… how am I supposed to survive?”
Caught in a similar situation, owner of a retail grocery shop Prabir Kumar Patra too laments of his sales having dropped to more than 50%. Nonetheless, he is optimistic while saying, “This difficulty will remain for the next few days as this is a major step for the greater good of the country.”
However, the fact remains that small time businesses are finding it hard to achieve their sales target. Ezamul Shaikh, a manager in a café at Cuttackhas an additional problem of salary payment as well. Shaikh regrets not being able to send money to his family either.
Then, there are many youngsters like Sushmita Rautray, a student who has breezed through the initial hiccups by using cashless payment option like Paytm application on her smartphone or paying with card. “It is surprising to see that some roadside stalls too are accepting payment through Paytm e-wallet.”
Equally distressed over the situation of the invalidation of the cash in hand, Basant Kumar Rout is worried about managing preparations for his daughter’s wedding next week. “I had to deposit all the money I had withdrawn from the bank a few days ago. The everyday changing limits on the withdrawal limits feels harassing when there is a lot preparation done. We had to cancel many orders that we had done earlier since the vendors are no longer willing to take the cash payments. The biggest trouble was to buy jewellery as the shops remained closed for few days after the announcement,” said Rout.
Meanwhile, talking about the impact of demonetisation on their business, Amarnath Singh of a petrol pump at Unit-II Market Building says, “Though initially, we have been able to and will continue to accept old notes till November 24, gradual depletion of our stock of change notes in lower denomination is forcing us to ask our customers to buy petrol worth the entire value of the denomination. Depositing or withdrawing cash from the banks are equally lengthy processes. Moreover, we are now seeing a sudden decrease in the flow of customers.”
On the contrary, a medicine representative of Med Plus, ChittaranjanBhanja says, “We are accepting old notes as per the guidelines issued by the Union Government. Our company has facilitated enough cash to maintain our business and even if people demand for more change in return, we are able to give it to them. So our business is not much affected. Of course, we are facing some sort of difficulties in depositing the old currency in the banks, but this is the least we can do for the eradication of black money.”
Sharing a similar view, Aditya Acharya, a student of XIMB, Bhubaneswar feels funding terror activities will not be that easy anymore. He points out that for a lesser developed state like Odisha, it will be fruitful in diverting the black money circulation into serving better purposes. His enthusiasm over the policy is evident as he states, “If this step is not allowed to taste success, then no other PM will have the courage to do something to eradicate corruption in the next 100 years. It will give out a message to the youth that the corrupt would no longer get away with corrupt practices while at the same time, motivating our youth to be inclined towards more hard earned and well deserved earning.”
What Politicians Say
Although the decision has most certainly shaken the political circles given the impending elections in some states, we find some voices united over implementation of Modi’s decision. Both Sameer Mohanty, State vice president of BJP, Odisha and Lekhshree Samantsinghar, state secretary for BJP feel that this decision will change the political and economic landscape of the country.
Mohanty feels that Modi has risked much and will be successful in controlling terrorism and illegal money transactions in the country. “Everybody including me have faced problems yet as per a survey, around 82 percent people support this decision and we hope it would have a good impact on the coming elections,” he sums up.
Then there have been leaders like Minister of Cooperation and Excise Damodar Rout who are in agreement with the PM’s bold step in the direction of tackling black money, but the resultant woes of common people are also paramount issues. “Implementation with proper planning would have been better and not made innocent people who have never seen black money in their lives, suffer,” says Rout.
“As for me, I did not have money in the form of cash, so it wasn’t very difficult for me,” he adds.
Even Minister of State Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare, Sanjaya Kumar Das Burma and President of Pradesh Congress Committee, Odisha also extended their support towards the intention but were angry over the manner of implementation of the measures. “No matter what step the government takes, it cannot afford to put the people in trouble for so long,” says Harichandan.