Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Friday, January 13, 2017

What Price Cashless Economy?!!

Once it became clear that those who indulge in the generation of black money had found ways and means to circumvent the "strategic strike against black money" that demonetisation was initially supposed to be, the Government shifted the goal posts and said that the aim was to usher in a cashless economy. Suddenly remove cash from the economy and even without adequate preparation to make it possible for those who are not part of the banking system in any functional way to adjust to this, hey presto, the Indian economy would become a digital one it was claimed. So here is the story of one man, who is at the bottom of the pyramid, who believed wholeheartedly in the Government's exhortation to deal only through banks.
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.
He harvested 23 quintals of maize from his farm this year. The local traders were offering Rs 1150 per quintal and were prepared to come and lift the maize from his farm and pay him in cash. However, inspired by the Government's pitch to go cash less and also the prospect of getting a better price in the grain market in Indore city, he decided to take his produce there and get paid by cheque instead. He got Rs 1350 per quintal and was given a cheque of Rs 31250 by the trader who has an account with the Bank of India. Raisingh returned to Pandutalav and deposited this cheque in his account with the State Bank of India. This is a Jandhan account that is operated through an off branch kiosk run in Pandutalav by an agent of the State Bank of India which has a branch in the nearby market village of Udainagar some seven kilometers away. Many Government Banks have initiated the outsourced kiosk system to manage the Jandhan accounts so as to lessen their costs of operation. Raisingh had deposited the cheque on the 4th of December 2016 the day after he got it in Indore on 3rd of December 2016. When even after 15 days the amount wasn't credited to his account he asked the kiosk operator in Pandutalav what was happening. The kiosk operator said that the cheque was in the process of being cleared. More time passed and Raisingh became anxious as to what was happening with the cheque. Finally after a month had passed the kiosk operator told Raisingh that the State Bank of India staff had said that since this was a cheque from a different bank with a branch in Indore they would not deal with it in his Jandhan account and he would have to go to Indore and deposit the cheque in a branch of the State Bank there.
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.

2 comments:

David Gandhi said...

Good to know the real story at the grassroots.

n subba said...

Please say "Hello" to Raisingh. I have no way of getting in touch wih him and wanted to thank him for the lunch that he provided when Kathryn and I visited! And, how's the buffalo kid? I wanted to bring the buffalo back to the USA with me :-)