The Little Things Are What Will Help Us Tide Over Demonetisation

Queue at the ATM
Queue at the ATM

With the sudden demonetisation measure by Prime Minister, Modi, we are all either sitting on currency that needs to be exchanged or are running low on cash. There is a minor sense of panic you feel as you start hunting for the 100s, 50s, 20s that you may have tucked away in a drawer. You may even find yourself peeping greedily into your children's piggy banks.

Immediately after the move was announced I had to travel and I wanted to have at least a few 100s for any emergency. Yes, plastic money is accepted at almost all places in Bangalore, but there are still times when you need cash. Anyhow, my son had a few hundreds in his wallet. God bless him! Saved me a trip to the stressed-out ATMs.

I think if we all focus on how to facilitate things for others and extend a helping hand, it will make things better for everyone.

After exactly eight days, I finally ventured out to the ATM closest to my house and encountered a long queue. The ATM was anyway almost out of cash, I was told. Across the street, an ICICI branch looked deserted because both the ATM and branch had run out of cash. The situation left me in despair. I decided to try again the next day.

Instead of going to an ATM, the husband and I queued outside a bank branch the next day. This time things were more organized. Yes, it took about two hours, but we managed to deposit our few old notes and withdraw some money as well. This would come in handy to help out my maid as well as some other people who were low on cash. Despite the long queue, people were quite well behaved. In fact, we were helping each other out. There was banter among strangers and the bank staff were doing a fine job. It made me feel good to see how well we were coping with the situation.

I know my experience is very limited. I live in a city where my milk guy delivers through an app that I pay for with Paytm. My kirana store guy bills me monthly and accepts a credit card. So mostly my cash outlay is only when I have to pay salaries to the helpers at home and to the neighbourhood ironing guy and other stray cash purchases. Groceries, medicines, fruits, petrol—I can buy everything with plastic money. Even more so since the demonetisation.

Is the move good or bad? Well, I am no economist. But I've long hated how people who refuse to pay taxes—and some of them are really moneyed—splash their ill-begotten wealth. Why should they be allowed to get away when every penny that I make is taxed? Why should honesty be an exception and not a rule? I know this sounds very idealistic but why not?

Yes, I understand that not all black money is stored as cash. I am sure land dealings and gold buying are also being keenly looked into. Yes, we still have a largely cash-driven economy, and in the smaller towns and villages where banking is still patchy, even more so. Hence, the measure has wreaked havoc on some who have had to suffer to exchange their money and withdraw their cash. The implementation should have been better planned but then hindsight is always 20-20.

We cannot deny that it is a very bold move. At least a politician has dared to do more than just make noises. Yes, it has caused inconvenience and sure I wish it were better planned. Two weeks later and we still don't have the much-needed new 500s in the market. I think if we all focus on how to facilitate things for others and extend a helping hand, it will make things better for everyone.

Is the move good or bad? Well, I am no economist. But I've long hated how people who refuse to pay taxes splash their ill-begotten wealth.

I will give you an example. The other day, I had to pay my monthly bill at my kirana store. As I was waiting for him to swipe the card, a foreign woman came to buy something from the shop. Her bill came to ₹200+ and she did not have hundreds so she handed him an old ₹500 note. He said he could not accept that. She was Iranian and did not know what to do. So he changed his mind and agreed to take that ₹500 note. I commended him on his gesture. He shrugged it off saying that he anyway has to queue to exchange his notes. How will she manage in a foreign country? He had to help her out. A good lesson for all of us.

I believe that this move in the longer run will work for the better for the country. It is a first step in our battle to weed out corruption. A lot more needs to be done but at least a firm beginning has been made. Only time will tell how exactly it will all pan out.

Meanwhile those of us who are lucky enough to be logged in and have access to plastic can coast by, with technology making our lives a lot easier. I even discovered an app called Money View that has a feature that helps you "find an ATM with cash near you"! Just download the app (or update it for current users) and you will see a notification which when pressed will take you to your location (works for all over India) and show you the list of all banks and ATMs near you and their activity in the past few days. Really very useful given the current times.

So, how has demonetisation impacted your life? Are you in favour of it?

This post has been originally published on Rachna says.