Cur­rency ban slims fat In­dia weddings

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Jatin Pal’s wed­ding was just days away and his fam­ily were fi­nal­iz­ing plans for an ex­trav­a­gant multi-day cel­e­bra­tion then In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi banned high de­nom­i­na­tion notes overnight, cast­ing a dark shadow over the fes­tiv­i­ties. Within hours of Modi’s sur­prise Novem­ber 8 an­nounce­ment, 500 and 1,000 ru­pee ($7.25, $14.50) notes-some 85 per­cent of all cash in cir­cu­la­tion-were with­drawn, leav­ing mil­lions across the vast coun­try out of pocket.

The move-de­scribed by the prime min­is­ter as a “sur­gi­cal strike” against cor­rup­tion and tax eva­sion-co­in­cided with the start of In­dia’s an­nual wed­ding sea­son, when thou­sands marry dur­ing a three-month pe­riod deemed aus­pi­cious in the Hindu faith. “We marry once and you try to make it mem­o­rable in ev­ery pos­si­ble way. But the cash crunch is prov­ing oth­er­wise,” said Pal. “This has soured the happiness and left a bad feel­ing.”

Life sav­ings are ploughed into weddings in In­dia, with a typ­i­cal ur­ban fam­ily spend­ing up to $75,000 on cel­e­bra­tions, ac­cord­ing to an es­ti­mate by Gold­man Sachs. Traders say al­most all wed­ding-re­lated pur­chases are tra­di­tion­ally made in cash from sav­ings put aside over years–even decades–but that the cur­rency ban means many fam­i­lies are be­ing forced to cut back. “In­dian par­ents start plan­ning and sav­ing for the wed­ding as soon as a child is born,” Priyanka Gupta, owner of a bri­dal store told AFP, adding that she had seen a sig­nif­i­cant drop in busi­ness since the de­mon­eti­sa­tion. Delhi-based wed­ding planner Shrawan Ku­mar said most of his clients spend be­tween 1.5 mil­lion and 2 mil­lion ru­pees, but that some had scaled back plans by as much as 40 per­cent. Oth­ers have sim­ply de­cided to post­pone or even can­cel. “I can’t pay the waiter, pho­tog­ra­pher, trans­port, florist, veg­etable seller through cheques. We are at a loss,” Ku­mar said. An­other ca­su­alty has been one of Delhi’s old­est gold mar­kets, which has tem­po­rar­ily closed af­ter tax of­fi­cers raided jewel­ers across the coun­try on re­ports of a gold buy­ing spree fol­low­ing the cur­rency ban as peo­ple tried to turned their cash into gold. Al­most 50 per­cent of gold sales in In­dia are linked to weddings, ac­cord­ing to the World Gold Coun­cil, with most pur­chases made in cash.

‘No black money’

Stub­bornly long queues out­side banks have be­come a ubiq­ui­tous sight across the coun­try as the new ru­pee bills have been slow to get into cir­cu­la­tion. The gov­ern­ment has put tem­po­rary re­stric­tions on the amount of cash peo­ple can ex­change or with­draw in an at­tempt to wean the coun­try off cash and bring more into the for­mal-and tax­able-bank­ing sec­tor.

Fol­low­ing out­rage from fam­i­lies plan­ning weddings, the gov­ern­ment al­lowed a spe­cial one-time with­drawal of 250,000 ru­pees per wed­ding party to help cover costs-small fry for an In­dian wed­ding.

But Pal’s father Ran­bir said they had twice tried and failed to get the ex­tra money un­der the scheme-which re­quires pa­per­work prov­ing a wed­ding is in the works-and in­stead bor­rowed around 450,000 ru­pees from friends. “It is frus­trat­ing when you have saved money for the wed­ding but can’t use it,” said Ran­bir. “We should be mak­ing ar­range­ments for over 700 guests who will come to the wed­ding. Look what we are do­ing.”

Short of cash, the fam­ily has had to scale back the cel­e­bra­tions. Mad­hur Jain, who runs a wed­ding card shop in Old Delhi, said he had re­ceived just three or­ders a week since the de­mon­eti­sa­tion, down from an av­er­age of 30. “The old notes are out and new notes are nowhere to be seen,” Jain said. But de­spite most cus­tomers pay­ing in cash, bri­dal shop owner Gupta was quick to dis­miss sug­ges­tions that so-called “black money”-un­ac­counted money was in­volved in the in­dus­try. “There is no black money in­volved in the weddings,” she said. “More than any­thing this means shat­tered dreams of fam­i­lies (hop­ing) to cel­e­brate an ideal wed­ding.” — AFP

NEW DELHI: An In­dian ven­dor waits for cus­tomers in a shop sup­ply­ing tra­di­tional wed­ding dresses and suits in New Delhi. Jatin Pal’s wed­ding was just days away and his fam­ily were fi­nal­iz­ing plans for an ex­trav­a­gant multi-day cel­e­bra­tion un­til In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi banned high de­nom­i­na­tion notes overnight, throw­ing cold wa­ter over the fes­tiv­i­ties. — AFP

AHMED­ABAD: An In­dian bride poses for a pho­to­graph hold­ing 2500 INR in cash, given as a manda­tory ‘mahr’ pay­ment by the groom’s fam­ily to the bride at the time of mar­riage, and which legally be­comes her prop­erty, a mass wed­ding cer­e­mony in Ahmed­abad. — AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.