A well-to-do businessman in Uttar Pradesh said that the two months that followed Prime Minister's announcement of currency demonetisation have had a greater impact on his life than even his marriage. For a well off housewife in the state, demonetisation has meant losing her sense of safety, besides being deprived of the kitty parties that she and her friends always looked forward to.
Yet another conversation on demonetisation in U.P., however fetched a very curious response. "Demonetisation was the right decision but I don't know why," said Kheta Ram, a who drives a milk van.
Demonetisation was the right decision but I don't know why.
The conversation took place in Kanpur against the backdrop of the Assembly elections which are less than three weeks away. The big question is whether Modi's move to demonetise ₹500 and ₹1000 notes is going to catapult the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to power in India's most populous and politically significant state.
At least in Kheta Ram's village, Modi appears to have won the perception battle. The twenty-something milk van driver said that while most people he knew did not understand the details of demonetisation, they believed that Modi had finally shown the door to the rich and their unscrupulous ways.
Kheta Ram said that the people he knew believed that justice, at least in some measure, had finally been served and Modi was the one who had brought this about. "There is a balance," he said. "Rich and poor have been treated the same."
There was widespread suffering in the early days of demonetisation, Kheta Ram admitted. He did not even have money to buy food. He stood in the ATM line for hours to withdraw money and on those days he couldn't show up for work. As a result, his pay was cut. Then, he was saddled with ₹2,000 currency notes which served no purpose because it would be weeks before anyone had any change.
But Kheta Ram isn't angry. He spotted well-off people standing with the poor in the ATM lines. "Everyone has suffered," he said. "Not just the poor people."
Kheta Ram does not believe media reports which claim that demonetisation has triggered acute suffering in the countryside because of severe cash shortage. "People in villages really don't have that much money for it to be a problem," he explained. "They would have about ₹3,000 to ₹5,000 but that's all."
The milk van driver said that he was happy to get paid by cheque and use his ATM card to withdraw cash. "It's not just me, everyone is happy," he said. "Why, there are now vegetable sellers who you can pay by card."
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