Making history for Achche Din
Cashless - ATM too
Rajiva Shanker Shresta
With a year added to my life and also be being retired from the government service, the year 2016 is also coming to an end within days left with us in our hands. Many new resolutions would be cropping in our mind while taking the year in review how much we fared coping with the life that saw the demonitization hitting one and all. A worker found it difficult to get his money for he had no bank account and the mason who had one, the bank had no money. He sent his mother to the bank but had to try another day again in the queue. He was telling me that Rhenock had two outlets and they were at two opposite ends of the bazar. One facing east had reached almost the other end and another at this side reached there - both lines meeting midway people chatting to each other across. Arvind was lucky to get cash in his earlier attempt by going to the bank at night as he was gone to work during the day. His father was going to market for paying the electricity bill but there too the State Bank of Sikkim refused ₹ 500/- the validity of which was not yet expired and he had to come back. I needed some medicines to buy but the medical store refused to accept the old notes as if its validity again expired very much like medicines - instead gave him the bill to pay later. We could have kept him waiting but thought it better to clear the due amount in the first opportunity getting the cash in crisp fresh purple notes when Ranjana was in Gangtok which son Raman managed. So, how I had the first look of the new ₹ 2,000/- note? It was when a worker was flaunting fondly of achieving/owning one being the first among his friends working here. They were telling that Modi could be heard speaking from the note like the merchant was mentioning Ranjana when in the capital. When she sent one for recharging the mobile, Arvind brought a fresh ₹ 500/- note and that led me to believe that this denomination of new note had also arrived here at Rhenock. (Someone wrote yesterday that ₹ 500/- is yet to enter Sikkim?!) We too are that much fortunate to see banks bringing them earliest to much needed relief from the cash crunch. Some say this was not good on part of the Government at this time of the year-end and could have waited till the New Year at least. Some find it not fair on their part to make them suffer and I tell them it is matter of few days and for the good of the society and the country as a whole as it would not only help get rid of black money and corruption but also things could become cheaper and life easier in days to come. Otherwise, demonitization would put a curb on many ills the society faced since ₹ 500/- and ₹ 1,000/- notes were the root cause of corruption, black money generation, terror and militant funding as Baba Ramdev was mentioning. Many wonder what would be its role in the game politicians play but seeing the Black Money stashed in thousands and lakhs that too a sizeable portion in the new ₹ 2,000/- notes to realize/believ that where there is a will, there is a way out for such corrupt people. I remember of a story my colleague Ganesh Gwongaju once shared an old story of such a person whom the king thought it best to transfer him to the stable thinking that there would be no scope whatsoever for corrupt practices. But there too this man had his way out and he cashed the opportunity by selling the horse-dung even stealthily to make those extra bucks. Well sincerity is the much needed rare thing at the present age like it was in old days as well to understand from this Akbar-Birbal story shared. Kumar, who is good in singing like in breaking stones but equally in his passion for drinks. His wife Kabita too is a good worker as good as some male workers but she too finds him unstoppable sometimes. Kumar goes missing once he gets wages paid that he wants immediately cleared to show up in between with a promise to come next day for sure but again! Kumar was mentioning of his experience while in Gangtok. He and his friend suddenly realized that they had not enough money left to return home. He finds himself at the door of a VIP there and he tells him his difficulty without forgetting to mention that they were his party supporters. "How many of you?" and he replied some five-six more waiting outside. The kind heart goes inside and gives him a wad that Kumar finds it to be ₹ 10,000/- that was more than expected and needed. Easy comes easy goes - them to enjoy and have a lot of fun. In fact they were just two guys only!
Those who follow the news understand the phase not only we in the Black Hill but throughout the whole of the country passing through understood to be a common plight. As I handed out a ₹ 500/- note to a worker, Bihari carpenter Rajesh asked me if I had not seen Modi's speech last night and knew about the fate of these notes. I just asked him whether he needs it or not. It was being accepted till much later even after weeks as per time allowed. Pithakothey Kancha accepted it readily when I gave him for getting some 'Doko' for carrying the stones Kumar-Bablu had broken. Next day, he came and asked him how he managed to encash it. Local shop-keeper was kind enough to readily oblige him but on his own terms and conditions. It was not in cash but in kind - a good bargain reminding of the ancient barter system - groceries had to be purchased from him. There was rumour of some exchanging it discounted value of even ₹ 400/- taking benefit of the cash crunch. I recollect here reading about Bhutanese Ngultrum 100/- previously at discount of ₹ 10/- were fetching the same amount but in premium at the border town. When Mason Saurabh Ali wanted some payment I asked his bank account number. Since he did not have an account here nor back at home(?), next morning he brought along Deepak Kumar Prasad, a local grocer at Chalisey. He had owed him some money for the supplies made. So, I gave him a cheque for ₹ 10,000/- to settle the dues. When I asked the mason Ravi for his bank account number in order to deposit their wages, what he gave was his State Bank of India, Pakyong number as he did not have an account with the bank I maintain nor they have a branch here. We had no way but to go cashless and he thought withdrawing money from ATM was no hitch either. But again when he reached the bazar, the ATM too was cashless. A cheque deposited too needed a long time for clearing even if in the same bank and deposited amount come to us known through an alert on our mobile. Ravi was anxious to know the amount deposited which I did not mention just to keep his and his team's curiosity nor did he mention me after a week by which it ought to reach his account. I had shown him the picture of the counterfoil for the amount to get him satisfied and convinced. As his co-workers were after him for the wage and those newly joined were more so, I gave him a ₹ 2,000/- note. It was a problem again how to disburse the amount and asked for it in Rs.500/- notes. Since Kumar-Kabita had to attend an important function in the Gurung Gumba at Aritar, I had to give another ₹ 2,000/- note to keep them happy in these days of difficulty, more with Ravi's attempt yet another time at night to take out cash from the ATM turned futile. He was then suddenly absent next day to know him having left for Rangpo to get some money out but here too he was disappointed being turned out to go to the branch where he has his account, i.e. Pakyong. Another day gone in waste but his team-mates could appreciate and realize how things were these days. What a way to suffer even after a month of demonetization amidst reports of ₹ 10 crores in new notes seized along with 127 kg of gold on the International Anti-Corruption Day when 70% of the Corporate employees reportedly feel that ban will curb graft while the news of former Air Chief S. P. Tyagi being arrested by CBI in 2010 VVIP Chopper Scam involving AugustaWestland was another headline this day! It was heartening to read the news ~ "DEMONETIZATION: Problems Will Be Over In 10-15 Days, Government Tells Supreme Court - New Delhi: Defending the notes ban forcefully today, the government told the Supreme Court that it is 'not sitting around doing nothing' and all the problems will be over in '10-15 days'. The court asked the government why people couldn't be assured a minimum amount for withdrawal....The government said the withdrawal limit was restricted to ensure that everyone gets new currency." Source Darjeeling Times via NDTV. Earlier the news was - "Did you have a plan at all, Supreme Court asks govt on demonetisation move" Times of India
The last demonetization, as mentioned above, was in January 1978 but I personally do not remember if it affected me at all though I was very much in the Government service and that too working as Deputy Secretary in the Finance Department. The reason could be, those days our salary in the rank of a senior gazetted officer was just in three figures and the banknote then demonetized was in higher denominations of ₹1000, ₹5000, and ₹10,000. To dismay of many a young people, there are cases within a few years of getting into the government service, friends making enough to splurge. It could be the reason that people on the other side of the Teesta always had a grudge with their neighbours/friends getting into Sikkim somehow - even with identity of being a Sikkim resident. Places bordering the Company-side like the Black Hill have not gone without such a malpractice but what use when most of them who entered following the nationalization of the Kingdom have even retired as it is four decades now. The word Decades reminds me of my hard work "Sikkim - Three Decades towards Democracy (2005)" that went fused somehow that is beyond my understanding it but good deeds never to go futile as they, however, make a mark in the society to give the utmost satisfaction of having accomplished the task unprecedented and unparalled even after eleven years as 2016 too coming to a close down soon.
"If not cashless let's become less-cash society": Rajnath Singh, Union Home Minister, recently said. It is easier as well as difficult staying in the village called the Black Hill but to agree that cashless life has definitely made a less-cash society to live with forced savings which is not bad to the health of our pockets unless very swollen. Slim wallet with one or two plastic card would lead to a happy life, let us hope. Cheque has of late become an acceptable thing. Next would be trying on-line transactions wherever possible more at the mercy of the network here, while BSNL is still an impediment to communicate in the Digital India even if they have upscaled with some signal in place of "No Service" hitherto to go off and on very frequently. Friends and relatives suggest me to change the service at an earliest but I am so obstinately or optimistically adamant over the six months here in the Black Hill to let things improve - always hoping for the better days - Achche Din!
Disclaimer: This is author’s personal account of memories updated to cherish and treasure often on a detour here and there en route to share the joy of the journey called life. Some names (*asterisk for those no more), quotes, places and events mentioned are just to connect with and no malice whatsoever intended. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Newars World~Wide Connecting the Dots Sikkim is available at the Rachna Books.