One find morning, the country awoke without cash (cf this post). The notes of 500 and 1,000 rupees (about 8 and 12 euros), the biggest ones, had no more value. BOOM. And the citizens had a few weeks to deposit their ‘old’ notes at the bank. New notes, of 500 and 2,000 rupees, came quite fast but in infinitesimal quantities – which is either voluntarily or not from the Government, we don’t know). So here's what I realized when 'surviving' with 300 rupees for 2 weeks:
- I pay my vegetables to the street vendor in cash. My only option was to go to the supermarket, cutting off a source of income to my local dealer (which would in turn have to pay his supplier to continue to receive his vegetables and we can go back up to the seeds provider like this, in the farming chain!). Fortunately, in less than a week, my street vendor had installed the Paytm app and I can now pay him via my smartphone.
- I had to stop taking rickshaws and get only Uber / Ola.
- I stopped tipping people – small change is worth gold. And it hurt me quite bad when I couldn't give anything to the old man in the supermarket who carried my bags and dug up a little thingy for my son.
- I stopped paying my cleaning lady until she opens a bank account.
- I attended a shopping Sunday evening in a fancy Mall ten days after the fateful date of 'demonetization'. And while I had heard a lot about people holding on to their money in fear of what was coming next, it was just madness in H & M and Mark & Spencer where card machines overheated, and lines were endless. The rich could still buy clothes, I was reassured ;)
- I was told this move was a disaster for weddings (and we just entered the wedding season) which are all paid in black cash and yet it is full party in the wedding ground of my neighbourhood almost every night.
- I had the chance to visit the bank to deposit some old bills and witness the chaos, it’s crazy.
- I got really upset at the post office because, although it is public institution, they don't have a card reader and don’t accept cheques. (Besides Indians are not fans of cheques especially when they are on the receiving end – for example if you pay by cheque at a Mothercare shop, they deliver you the product only that once the funds have been credited because there are too many blank cheques.)
In short, it’s a mess, we hear about everything and anything about it, and it is especially the poor who have to pay (he he) but at the same time it is a new opportunity for Indians to demonstrate their resourcefulness (or jugaad as we say here) which is simply amazing.
PS: It is heard nowadays that the Government wants to go Digital. Though it is a seducing idea, let us not forget that 30% of the population still can’t read, 30% still doesn’t own a phone, 85% doesn’t access the Internet on their phone, 900 million still leave with less than 2$ per day.
The daily view from my office, the line one hour before the ATM opens...