A #RushForCash Update: Feeling Blessed, Cynical, Sheepish (but not necessarily in that order)

Queues at ATMs and Banks Continue
Some ten days following the demonetisation of ₹1,000 and ₹500 notes, queues outside ATMs and at banks continue throughout India. This morning’s TV news revealed that banks would only be dealing with senior citizens today. I’m sure the intention behind this was laudable; give room and space for the elderly to do their banking without the aggression and tensions of younger generations jostling them. But consider this – most people have older citizens in their family. Are they going to be pressured into carrying out their family’s banking when they had no intention of putting themselves through that ordeal today?

Locally, the closest SBI ATM has the longest queues ever. Ordinarily the most a queue has ever been is one other person ahead of me. Now, the queue does indeed trail away from the building, along the forecourt, across the access point of a government compound and down the road. The people standing in that queue are bunched up and almost heel-to-toe with one another. A sight unseen.

Cash-Ready Again (Feeling Blessed)
Given all the sites and sights of awful, seemingly interminable queues, I am almost in disbelief about the ease with which we acquired our own stash of much-needed dosh. The cash I pictured in my last post came about because we have access to a non-SBI (State Bank of India) bank branch and in a small town. This, I feel, truly is our blessing. Others are not so lucky. The SBI is a major player in the Indian banking world. Even on an ordinary day mid-week, the local SBI is mobbed with people. Chaos or some version of disorganised activity is the norm. During the current circumstances the situation can only be even more awful for both customers and staff alike. Our good fortune is that on one side we have not had to go through the ordeal of endless queues with people in varying degrees of distress or impatience and on the other to being cash-ready again.

The Masterstroke behind the Apparent Masterstroke? (Feeling Cynical – and a little Sheephish)
While watching the morning news programme, with its ongoing surfeit of coverage about the Demonetisation Debacle that continues across India (there were indeed other Breaking News items in the mix – but I’m sticking with the one item for this post), I considered a possible turn-around on my opinion of Mr Modi’s ‘Masterstroke’. As any right-minded person knows, one can surely not be expected to take the word of a politician at face value. Ergo, the claim that the current ruling party (BJP – Bharatiya Janata Party) acted radically to attack the black market economy can definitely be seen through highly-critical eyes. The suspicious amongst us (that’ll definitely be me) are wondering what is the truth behind the BJP’s motivation. Here’s what I reckon is one reason, one part of the current government’s agenda if you like.

India is frequently cited as a fast emerging economy. Yet a huge proportion of its citizens do not own a bank account, and many do not have the appropriate or accurate ID cards in order to legitimise any chance of changing or depositing their now worthless currency. As this is the case in India, a country striving for global legitimacy, any government can see that to help the country increase its growth and prosperity it needs as many of its citizens to be up-to-speed with current business practices. Most of the world is now online in some way. India has a huge mobile network and many people will have smartphones even where they continue to live in mud huts. Surely, then, to coerce, or rather force, people to adopt new and emerging technologies to help grow the economy quickly Mr Modi has certainly hit upon a masterstroke. For example, a few days ago I scoffed at the notion being purported that vegetable-market vendors would now start accepting payment by a phone app. (such as PayTM for example). I’m kinda laughing the other side of my pretentious patronising attitude now the media has reported that very thing is happening. I’ve not yet been to our own vegetable market to discover if those transactions are taking place here, but now I shan’t be so surprised if the vendors in our small town are happily clicking payments through wirelessly, without besmirching their hands or their customers with grubby notes. That said, I’m guessing they won’t be accepting transactions for my usual ₹30 of carrots.

Meanwhile, Related News Elsewhere……… (Feeling Grateful again)
I’ve been shopping! My kitchen shelves were becoming echoey; the fridge felt unloved; a restock was necessary. Not only did I return home from a fruitful forage with five full bags of goodies, my wallet went from trimmed down (holding a few crisp ₹2,000 notes) to a bulging version of itself full of ₹100 notes. Despite all the shopkeepers happy to have custom, they  half-begrudgingly, almost sorrowfully, doled out their stash of precious ₹100 notes. Here’s hoping those promised ₹500 notes appear soon, and the ongoing mass-induced misery of queuing for regular banking services ends, which will surely put a smile of relief on the face of more than just me and mine.