Conversations in the time of cashlessness

(From my Facebook post, dated 15-Nov-2016)

Yesterday, as I was headed to our village near Pollachi, I could see that all the banks on the bus route from Coimbatore were crowded. At the SBI branch at SIDCO, they had put up a shelter. At the Vadikipalayam branch, 7-8 kms from our village (with buses every half an hour), there were two long, separate queues for men and women.

All along the way, the word ‘money’ had filled the air and kept slamming my ears. Whoever I met, spoke more about money than the failing rains. Not everything that they said was true – but they said what they believed to be true. I am translating and putting down the conversations that stayed with me.

A youngster on the bus:
Everybody is paying wages through the old notes. I have decided not to accept them and haven’t gone for any work today. They do exchange at the bank but one has to stand in the queue.

An old man working at a farm on the way:
It has been 23 days since it rained. So, she (his wife) has also not been able to go for any work.
What money do I have that needs to be exchanged? They (their employer, an IT professional in Japan) usually send money from Japan to another person. That person comes and pays us our salary. I am not sure which notes we will get this month.

Another middle-aged man who joined us:
Who goes to the bank? I get my salary only our owner comes (a doctor from Cochin) here. It has been two months since their last visit. We usually manage with our son’s income. Savings – what savings? Not a single paisa stays. Some expense or other is always there. Last month my mother-in-law died. In our community, we have to spend lavishly for everything.

Modi has announced just like that and left. Everyone here is suffering in the queues. If we go to buy anything at the shops, they first ask us to show our money, and only then turns to take the goods. Everyone is getting their daily wages in old currency. If they visit the bank to exchange, they lose a day’s wage.

Who gives change for 2000 rupees. Today, the one who has a 100 rupee note in his pocket is richer than the one with Rs.2000.

At the petrol bunk, they take the 500 rupee note only if we fill for 500 rupees.

I heard that bundles of 500 and 1000 rupee notes came floating on the Ambarampalayam river. Some of our boys went to see it. Big shots are there at Ambarampalayam and Vettaikaranpudur. Though there is no tax for agricultural income, if they show so many crores, will there not be questions on how so much could be earned through farming? They are all into various businesses.

Someone said that an Omni van stopped at a dustbin near Eachanari. They unloaded a few boxes and burnt them. All of it was cash. Nobody knows who they were.

What worries do the black money hoarders have? They’ll wait till next month. Whatever they are not able to convert (into white), they would just throw away and walk off. They would make up for it in the next month. (Black money is a flow and not a stock. – Prabhat Patnaik)

Yesterday, they drilled a bore well at Chettiar farm. Even after 1000 feet they got no water. Last year too, they had dug 5 bore wells and got nothing.

On your electricity line, the three phase current has not been available for the last 3 days. At your neighbouring farm, they said they hardly had enough water for the cattle. Work will get done only if the lineman is paid.

Our neighbouring farmer:
I had opened a bank account for the gas connection. But I haven’t put any money in it so far.

The milkman has already told us that he would pay us only in the old currency. He pays us every fortnight. His company has told him that they would pay him only in old notes. Such a big firm – why can’t they pay in new currency?

My brother’s son is travelling. He called me to tell that the salt price to going to shoot up to Rs.300 per kg. He asked me to stock up a sack of salt. I ignored it – what is the big deal if there is no salt?

The woman who grazes her cattle on our farm:
My brothers have borrowed all the money from me. They’ll return when I need it. What indulgence do I have have?

Yesterday, the VAO’s assistant called me and gave the Deepavali saree. Usually it is given before Deepavali. But this year it has come only now.

I don’t know whether I’ve a bank account. The newspaper boy took Aadhar card and photo. He withdraws money every month and gives it to me. He takes 50 rupees. He does this for all of us. Earlier the postman used to do it. This boy is also some government employee. (She has been abandoned by her husband, and gets a pension of Rs.1000 through a Government scheme).

As you warned, the tomato prices are very low. At Giri annan’s farm, they have left the tomatoes unplucked.

An old couple, who own a 10-acre farm:
There has been no rain. If this situation persists, we are going to struggle even for drinking water.

It is alright – Modi has started off a good task. Are these people not flush with black money? Let it all come out.

There was no money floating on Ambarampalayam river…we were there yesterday. Just some cloth bags. People are also spreading rumours that someone burned bundles of cash near Kurichi pond.

There was a long queue at Vadakkipalayam. So I went to the Pollachi Indian Bank and deposited Rs.7000. I’ve 7 accounts. I went with the idea of visiting the branch that was least crowded.

For how much did you purchase tomatoes at Coimbatore (Rs.8 per kg). Yesterday we sent 14 boxes (15 kg per box). After the vehicle rent, toll at check post, commission etc, we got Rs.120. We didn’t even get the plucking wages. I am plucking them myself…paying wages for this doesn’t make sense.

This new 2000 rupee note is like this thin saree. It will tear as easily. Yesterday, at the TASMAC shot, somebody gave a fake 2000 rupee note and had two quarters.

The rich have no worries. The poor also somehow manage. The middle class seems to be stuck and suffer.

(My Facebook post dated 13-Nov-2016)

Last night, as we travelled from Tiruvannamalai to Coimbatore via Salem, the usually crowded buses on that route had many vacant seats. Demonetization seemed to have led to decongestion on long distance buses, at least for that day. My Home-Finance Minister had the premonition to ensure that she was carrying a few 100 rupee notes. A group of pilgrims from Pollachi, who were on their way back from Tirupati via Tiruvannamalai, somehow scrambled to pool together all their 100 rupee and 10 rupee notes to buy their tickets. When the bus stopped at a roadside restaurant for dinner, they did some inquiries and decided that fasting won’t do them much harm. Two black money hoarders who were carrying a couple of 500 rupee notes insisted that their money be accepted by the conductor, and refused to get down in the middle of nowhere at night. The conductor took the bus to the police station. The police promptly got them alighted.

At Salem, I suggested to the Pollachi pilgrims to take a train. Worried about how to reach the railway station, they tried their luck with an apple-vendor. For buying a few apples, the vendor accepted their 1000 rupee note and gave them change. That should have helped them reach Pollachi.


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