Raisingh Patel is a sixty year old Barela Adivasi man who has about 2 hectares of farm land in Pandutalav village in Dewas district of Madhya Pradesh. He lives on his farm in a wooden hut along with his family which includes apart from human beings, animals and birds also as is the custom among the Bhils.
This is when Raisingh became desperate and gave me a call describing his impasse. Initially my reaction was to go to the State Bank branch in Udainagar and argue with the staff there. However, already one and a half months had elapsed and if the State Bank staff dilly dallied further then the validity of the cheque would expire. So I took Raisingh to the nearest Bank of India branch in Bagli town some 45 kilometers from his village to open an account there. The staff there said that to open a normal bank account Raisingh would need an Income Tax Department Permanent Account Number (PAN) and as he did not have one he would have to once again open a Jandhan account in a kiosk. These Jandhan accounts allow only withdrawal of Rupees Ten Thousand per month and so he would have to wait for three months to withdraw his maize sale payment in totality. Since getting a new PAN in a remote area like Pandutalav takes at least a month we decided to open a Jandhan account with the Bank of India kiosk operator in Bagli. It will take two days for the account to become operational and only then will Raisingh be able to deposit his cheque in the account by going to Bagli once again. And after that he will be able to withdraw only Rs 10,000. We also applied for a PAN for Raisingh as the bank staff said that once he got the PAN he could upgrade his account to a normal one which does not have the Rs 10000 per month limit on withdrawals.
Raisingh got about Rs 4600 more by selling in the grain market in Indore but he had to pay Rs 2000 of that to the transporter so his net gain over selling on his farm was Rs 2600. However, he has had to spend around Rs 1000 of that in running around to get a new bank account opened with Bank of India. So this is how the cashless economy is manifesting itself for marginal agriculturists like Raisingh. If I had not intervened in between, he would have been in deeper trouble. The Jandhan accounts are a burden for the Banks and they do not want to provide such services as sending the cheques of other banks deposited in them for clearing since that involves more costs which are not met by these accounts. So instead of making bombastic announcements of India going digital and cash less and beating its breasts that millions of poor people are now art of the banked population, the Government should instead subsidise the operation of the Jandhan accounts and make it mandatory for banks to provide the account holders with quality service.