Almost two months have passed since the demonetisation move was undertaken by the Narendra Modi government in November 8. The initiative to ‘go cashless’ and making India a cashless economy in the near future, free from corruption and black money has so far backfired at large.
The long queues continue to build up outside the State Bank of India (SBI) branch in Bucharwada, in Diu, the UT located off the south coast of Gujarat. Some women claim that they have been waiting as early as 6 AM. However, the bank door continues to remain locked even at 11:30 AM.
Similar sights can be seen a few kilometers away at SBI’s Wanakbara branch. Policemen keep vigil to keep the crowd in control. The solitary ATM in the vicinity is out of order. Most of the banks have the same story to tell.
Union Minister of State for Home Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, earlier this week said,
“the UT administration for taking the initiative to make Daman and Diu the first cashless region of the country”. Sadly, this has been the reality the other way round.
Diu is a popular bar and pub region for tourists from dry Gujarat. But only one of its 200-odd bars has a Point of Sale (PoS) machine, as mentioned by the office-bearers of the Diu District Liquor Association (DDLA), to The Indian Express. Around 60 bars run by hotels accept online and cheque payments, while the rest depend on cash transactions.
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Shyamji Vaishya, proprietor of Royal Wine Shop in Bandar Chowk, said, “We have applied for two PoS machines, and the banks have assured that they will be delivered early next month. Till then, we have to continue to deal in cash.”
Vaishya, who is happens to be DDLA secretary, is one of the main liquor whole sellers in Diu Territory. He said that his wholesale business mainly depends on cash payments. He said, “While hotels don’t make cash payments, the smaller bars still deal in cash. About 30 to 40% of the payments that I receive is in cash.”
Deepee Bar, which is the only bar with a PoS machine. Here, only 20% of the transactions are in cash. The owner Hardik Seth says, “People from rural areas pay in cash… But those who drink costly brands pay by debit or credit card. While we have had this machine for the last two years, cashless transactions were very rare before November 9.”
At a general store nearby, named ‘Honest Enterprise’, cash transaction is the norm. The owner Imran Vora said, “I submitted an application to SBI for a PoS machine 25 days ago. But bank officials say it will take time. Accepting cheque payments for small amounts is inconvenient.”
Kamlesh Bamaniya, who runs the parking space at the ports department’s parking lot, said, “Who will give me a PoS machine for collecting such paltry amounts.” The parking lot fees are Rs 10 for bikes, Rs 100 for trucks, all through cash.
Similarly, at the Diu Craft Mela, which began on December 19, none of the 20-odd stalls have the infrastructure to facilitate cashless transactions. While at the lighthouse at the historic Diu Fort, Jagdish Rajput, a photographer, offers to click photographs of tourists giving instant printouts, for Rs 30 per copy. He says, “I don’t know anything about card payments or Paytm.”
The Diu municipal council president Hitesh Solanki said teams are training people about digital transactions. He said, “These teams are educating fisherman, grocers, auto-rickshaw drivers, and owners of provision stores among others.” But the big picture as of now is that, only big hotels and restaurants are the ones accepting cashless transactions.
The same story happens to be in Daman, where about 85,000 migrants from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Odisha and Maharashtra live in rented rooms and work in textile & plastic factories and liquor distilleries. It is believed that a few labour intensive industries are finding it difficult to go cashless.