After demonetisation order was given by PM Narendra Modi, digitisation spread quickly and people started to rely on ‘cashless’ transactions. The BJP government patted its back on spreading ‘cashless’ transactions across various villages in India. But by the time the first anniversary has rolled around since demonetisation, it is cash which is seen making a comeback, at least in these ‘cashless’ villages.
In Maharashtra’s Dhasai village, about 100 km from Mumbai, the people willfully accepted digital payments on December 1 last year. The village was popularised as the “first cashless village” in the country. A jewellery store owner, Ashok Mali says he hasn’t used his point-of-sale (PoS) machine for more than a week now. “I don’t think anybody pays with an ATM card now. The machine fails to connect to the server very often,” he says.
A year later, only 15%-20% of daily transactions are cashless according to Swapnil Patkar, president of the traders’ association of Dhasai. Cash has made a comeback, Dhasai says as the villagers are in an illusion that the more ATM cards they use, the more tax deduction happens and the fear of security lapses is always there.
A month after demonetisation, Jharkhand’s capital Ranchi was the place where the government flagged off the Mission Cashless Jharkhand. A year has passed and the traders and customers now complain about the connectivity, digital illiteracy and bank back-ups. And with the rise of cash among the people, digital transactions have taken a backseat.
A supplier of building materials in Ranchi says he has been having problems with bank machines. He cries that about Rs 1.5 lakh ‘has been stuck’ for the last six months. He plans to return the machine to the bank now.
Additional Chief Secretary (Planning-cum-Finance) Amit Khare said, “One is connectivity, the other is the transaction charge. Still, we can say a lot of ground has been covered.”
Palnar village in Dantewada in Chhattisgarh was the talk of the town in April 2016 as District Collector Saurabh Kumar received award and appreciation from the Prime Minister for transforming this remote village to a “cashless” one. A few days after demonetisation, the district officials had set up a Customer Service Centre to make the villagers withdraw and deposit money digitally.
As per the government data from April to August show digital transactions of about Rs 27 lakh. Dhani Ram Sinha, a shopkeeper with a PoS machine says, “It has garnered a lot of curiosity. People come in just to see how it works. It is a matter of pride for us.”
But the ground reality is very different. Cashless transactions are still not the preferred mode of payment in the village. Muchaki, a resident of the villasge says, “Very few have cards. Bas jo padhe likhe hain, ya service kar rahein hain, card use karte hain. Internet to use karte hain, par paisa cash mein hi dete hain.”