BANK­ING ON FU­TURE GAINS

HT trav­els to small towns in Ut­tar Pradesh to as­sess the im­pact of the de­mon­eti­sa­tion pol­icy. The move has hurt the poor, but they are will­ing to en­dure the pain in the hope that more funds will be gen­er­ated for their wel­fare

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - HTTHINK - Prashant Jha prashant.jha1@hin­dus­tan­times.com

I f you want to see how in­con­ve­nience and sat­is­fac­tion can go to­gether, turn to Ja­mui bazaar in Mirza­pur.

Ram Sud­har runs a small shop here. He was watch­ing tele­vi­sion news on the night of Novem­ber 8th, when PM Naren­dra Modi scrapped ₹500 and ~1000 notes.

On the 10th, he went to a ma­jor whole­saler in Ba­naras – where he pro­cures wires, ca­bles, bulbs for his shop – and of­fered to buy goods in re­turn for ~500 and ~1000 notes. The whole­saler told him, “You take goods worth 50,000. Pay me later.”

Sud­har has seen his sales dip from about ~4000 a day to ~1000 a day. The mar­ket only has two banks, and cash sup­ply is lim­ited, which means cus­tomers have lit­tle liquidity to buy from him. He is now hit from both sides. He owes his sup­plier money, and his in­come has dipped.

What does he think of the government’s ban? “Bhaiyya, it is not a ban. If it was a ban, we would have got de­stroyed. They have only asked us to de­posit the notes and given us time. I think it is a very good move.” De­spite the in­con­ve­nience? “If our jawaans can pro­tect us 24 hours, we can stand in the bank queue for a few hours for national in­ter­est.” And what is this national in­ter­est that would be served? Sud­har out­lines some of the ben­e­fits – money will come into the banks. The ‘black money peo­ple’ will get trapped. The econ­omy will be­come swachh, clean. “In two weeks, it will all be fine.”

Next to Sud­har’s shop is a bike re­pair work­shop run by Sha­trughan Bish­wakarma. “Who will come to re­pair bikes if they have no money? I used to earn about ~500 a day. It is now down to ~100.”

And what does he think of the move? Bish­wakarma sup­ports it, and ar­gues, “Money will go into the banks and the re­sources of the government will in­crease. This will lead to a more equal so­ci­ety. For too long, too much money has been with too few peo­ple.”

Sud­har and Bish­wakarma – who be­long to dif­fer­ent castes – are not ex­cep­tions in small town UP. Ev­ery con­ver­sa­tion – in HT’s trav­els across Mirza­pur, Varanasi, Aza­m­garh, Jaun­pur –re­volved around how there is a lot of ‘pare­shani’, peo­ple don’t have ac­cess to their own money, and daily ex­pen­di­ture has got af­fected. Yet, most con­ver­sa­tions also ended with how ‘Modiji’– and this pol­icy mea­sure is iden­ti­fied com­pletely with the PM rather than the government – has done the right thing.

THE IMPULSES FOR SUP­PORT ARE VARIED. SOME HAVE FAITH IN THE PM’S COM­MIT­MENT TO RE­MOVE BLACK MONEY. MANY OTH­ERS ARE DRIVEN BY THE DEEP DE­SIRE TO SEE THE ‘AMEER SETH’ PUN­ISHED.

THE INTANGIBLE GOOD Many, it ap­pears, are will­ing to go through im­me­di­ate tan­gi­ble suf­fer­ing for intangible fu­ture good. The impulses for sup­port are varied. Some have faith in Modi’s com­mit­ment to re­move black money. Some hope this will gen­er­ate money for wel­fare. Some be­lieve it will even­tu­ally lead to a drop in prices and cor­rup­tion. Oth­ers think it will lead to so­cial equal­ity. Yet oth­ers are driven by the deep de­sire to see the ‘ameer seth’ pun­ished.

At the Bi­hari Dhaba near Mirza­pur’s Chu­nar bus stand, Ch­hot­ed­har ex­plains to me his rea­sons for sup­port­ing the move. “There is tem­po­rary pain. But in a month or two, notes will start com­ing in. The money that will be col­lected from the rich will then be in­vested in the poor.”

Would peo­ple con­nect with Modi, or get ir­ri­tated with him? Ch­hot­ed­har replied, “Thirty per cent will get ir­ri­tated and 70 per cent will be with him. I am with BSP but this is good work.”

Up ahead in Mirza­pur district was the Ra­j­gadh bazaar. At the Kisan De­gree In­ter Col­lege, the school hall was be­ing used as a wed­ding venue.

Amit Pa­tel was sit­ting out­side. His brother-in-law’s daugh­ter was get­ting mar­ried. “We made some pay­ments by cheque, and took some things on credit. I think this move will re­duce EMIs. Real es­tate value will come down.”

Sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments were at play in other dis­tricts. In a long bank queue in Jaun­pur, an old lady – who had been wait­ing for four hours – said the de­ci­sion had badly af­fected her. She did not even have enough money at home. So was the government wrong? She im­me­di­ately re­sponded, “No. If big, big peo­ple are trou­bled, how does it mat­ter if I am trou­bled?”

Another woman, in the same queue, agreed and said that they were mere work­ers; by bring­ing out the money of the re­ally rich, the government was cor­rect. “They had kept money by sup­press­ing the poor. So what if we are a lit­tle trou­bled?” NOTES OF DISSENT Pa­tience how­ever is not in­fi­nite. Sechu Ram is a labourer in Delhi’s Azad­pur mar- ket. Back home in his vil­lage in Aza­m­garh, Ram is an­gry with Modi.

His wife speaks up. “If we ex­change money also, they give us 2000. What will I do with that big note? The government is wrong.” When asked if this would help re­move black money, “How do we in vil­lages know what is black money? What does it mean?”

Lalitesh Pati Tri­pathi is the Congress MLA from Mirza­pur’s Mar­i­han – a ru­ral con­stituency. Tri­pathi ar­gues that the tim­ing of the move has up­set farmers. “This is the most cash-in­ten­sive time of the agri­cul­tural cal­en­dar. They need money for seeds, fer­tilis­ers, and daily labour.”

Those who are at the front-lines of ef­fect­ing of India’s mon­e­tary revolution are wor­ried too.

Prakash is the branch man­ager of Union Bank of India at Ba­jrang­na­gar of Jaun­pur. He is giv­ing out a max­i­mum of ₹2000 to cus­tomers.

Why? The man­ager ex­plains he has not re­ceived a sin­gle new ₹500 note and has very lim­ited quan­ti­ties of ₹2000 notes. “If I start giv­ing out money ac­cord­ing to the lim­its, I will be able to serve only six to ten peo­ple.” The branch has 40,000 ac­counts and caters to ru­ral pock­ets. Prakash says, “Peo­ple have been pa­tient till now, but it can break at any point. We need to re­store the cash sup­ply im­me­di­ately.”

His point is echoed by a se­nior UP po­lice of­fi­cial. The of­fi­cial warns, “If the chaos per­sists, if peo­ple get an­gry, if we can­not con­trol crowds, if there is even one in­ci­dent of fir­ing, then the sit­u­a­tion can de­te­ri­o­rate into a se­cu­rity night­mare.”

De­spite the ur­gency of im­prov­ing the sit­u­a­tion, the over­whelm­ing sen­ti­ment one captures in east UP is of the ex­tra­or­di­nary pa­tience of some of India’s poor­est cit­i­zens.

In UP, so­ci­ety is will­ing to be tested for 30-50 days by the state. But af­ter that, so­ci­ety will be­gin test­ing the state,

2 and Modi’s stag­ger­ingly am­bi­tious prom­ise of an eco­nom­i­cally cleaner India.

SECHU RAM (left), Aza­m­garh Dalit labourer I have been run­ning around to de­posit my money. I have had a lot of trou­ble in or­gan­is­ing my niece's wed­ding. Modiji has ha­rassed poor peo­ple like me. I am an­gry with him.

MANNA DEVI, Jaun­pur Home­maker I am trou­bled. But the government has done the right thing. The rich, who have made money by sup­press­ing the poor, are the ones who are suf­fer­ing more than us

RAM SUD­HAR (right) & Sha­trughan Bish­wakarma, Mirza­pur. Shop­keep­ers, who have seen a drop in sales They have only asked us to de­posit the notes and given us time to do so. I think it is a very good move. The econ­omy will be­come swacch, clean. In two weeks, it will all be fine.

RAMESH YA­DAV, Varanasi Farmer I have been stand­ing in the queue for four hours. I need cash for seeds and fer­tilis­ers. I am trou­bled but those who have kept money hidden are scared.

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