Jury still out on note ban: Some hail, others wail
Exactly a year ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi dramatically scrapped high value currency notes in a decision that jolted the economy and divided opinions on a major policy like never before. While the jury is still out on the note ban, which cost India two per cent GDP, the mass of people remain divided on what it achieved.
Many people IANS spoke to across the country continue to support Modi's decision to ban Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes to curb black money and counterfeit currency that helps sponsor terrorism. But, equally, others say the measure was needless and hazardous.
Several people complained the initiative was not well thought of given the hardships people endured in the aftermath of the decision, with some 100 deaths attributed to demonetisation.
"I support demonetisation but it was not a well-planned initiative," Pallavi Singh, a teacher in Delhi's Uttam Nagar, told IANS.
She said the government could have done enough not to let people, especially small businessmen, suffer. "I don't know how. But people did suffer during the cash crunch."
Amit Gupta, a wholesale dealer in east Delhi, called the note ban "a good move since all the money -- black or white -- came in the open and got accounted for".
For Hiya, a freelance compere based in west Delhi, demonetisation was nothing but "havoc".
"It was a very poorly executed plan. The intention may have been good but then it hit us so hard that I had to go without cash for many days.
"I was left with no cash in an altogether different state. I feel it is very important to ensure that policies or initiative like these are implemented in the same way as they are intentioned," she said.
Chandigarh-based Kamaljeet Kaur, who works in a BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) centre, said it was not possible to gauge the intention of the government behind the move.
"Modi said it was to curb black money, corruption and terror. But have we achieved anything on that front? If yes, can you tell me what and how?" she said.
Suren Swain, an agri-products shopkeeper in Odisha, said he lost much of his business in the aftermath of the note ban. "Can you really expect small traders in rural areas to switch over to digital transactions? That too overnight? It spelt doom."
Many traders in Delhi and other states said they felt the brunt of the surprise move that still hanuts them. Most complained about the decline in businesses.
Said Praful Sarkar, a shopkeeper in east Delhi: "I am not sure whether it is because of the demonetisation or anything else, but our sales have gone down by 30 to 40 per cent. It is not like what it used to be earlier."
Manoj Sharma, who deals in aluminium foil in the capital, said that "things have indeed taken a hit" -- maybe due to demonetisation or because of the tendency of customers to buy online.
Manoj Rawat, a retailer in Shimla, told IANS: "We are suffering losses. Who has seen any profit since then? Those who come with Rs 2,000 notes are scoffed at."
Many stated that the decline in business was an issue just for a couple of months and that their business revived soon.
Days after demonetisation, the government said it was also aimed at giving impetus to digital transaction and make the economy less dependent on cash.
E-transactions picked up. But whether it sustained with the same momentum in the months to come is arguable.
A good number of people said they were making card payments but had stopped using e-wallets for many reasons.
"I continue to make card payments wherever cards are accepted, otherwise I use cash... no particular change after demonetisation. Paytm and similar mobile applications are very rare," said Gaytri Kapur, an Indraprastha University student in Delhi.
R.C. Bisht, a vegetable and grocey vendor in Shahberi Market near Ghaziabad, said using e-wallets was expensive and much of his money was stuck with mobile wallet owners.
"It is not foolproof. One day a girl bought chocolates from me worth Rs 360 and said she could Paytm but I never received the payment because of some stupid botch up. I don't rely on it since then."
Aditya Reddy, a retailer in Andhra Pradesh, said he still used non-cash modes of payments like cheques but e-wallets was not used all that much.
He said the application didn't allow transactions above a certain amount. "We are charged for such transactions." - IANS