Chitralekha Gujarati issue dated 19th December 2016

Cashless Economy: A Tale of Four Villages

While the expected results of  demonetization along with its side effects are being felt all over the country, one positive fallout of this move is that India is decisively moving towards a cashless economy. Along with metros, many villages of Gujarat and Maharastra too are witnessing a gradual but steady transition into a cashless society. In this latest cover story, Chitralekha talks about four villages  out of which the two are already doing cashless transactions while the remaining villages include the birthplace of our prime minister and a village adopted by our finance minister. The story examines the scenario in these villages post demonetization.

Modi’s cashless economy dream has become a full-fledged reality in Akodara, a tiny Gujarat village near Himatnagar in the Sabarkantha district. Sunil Mevada visits the village that is considered to be the first cashless village in India. What rouses the visitor’s curiosity is the ubiquitous ICICI Board in the village, displaying guidelines on digital economy. There are six small shopping outlets in Akodara. Reading the instructions given in the front and aided by bank officials, young men of this village merrily use mobile money without any hassles. While children are used to the I Pad or computer, the wifi connectivity binds the entire village.

No wonder the village is fast emerging as the first digital village in India.

Akodara has a population of 12000 with 236 households. That the majority of people are teachers is an advantage for the village. The whole village has seamlessly transformed itself into a cashless economy though the old may look little bewildered by this development, but they too are fast reconciling to the changed situation.

The change here was not brought about overnight. It started way back in 2014 when ICICI adopted this village for its digital village project. The surpanch of the village attributes the success of the project to the youths of the village who showed amazing resilience and quick adaptability. Rather than saying the village has got a digital touch, it would be apt to say that the digitality has got a rural touch here.

Besides Gujarat, Maharastra too gets a cashless tribal village in Ghasai in Thane district, reports Devanshu Desai. Having a population of 8000, the village boasts of impressive level of literacy. Most people are engaged in their traditional businesses. The idea to turn the village into a cashless village was first mooted by Ranjit Savarkar, grandson of Veer Savarkar, who runs a military school here. It was discussed among village traders who soon reached a consensus to switch to digital economy.

Stung by the jibe of a parliamentarian who mockingly asked how dhoti-clad villagers would carry plastic cards, Ranjit Savarkar took a vow to make his village cash-free. Soon they approached the bank branch who volunteered to provide necessary wherewithal and the rest is the making of a history.

Today, most traders, vegetable and fruit vendors in Ghasai use swipe machines for cashless transactions.

Now famous as the birthplace of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vadnagar which has a population of 27000 underwent growth and development in the past two decades. In the wake of the demonetization move announced by the prime minister, this town too encountered a cash ordeal like the rest of India. For the first few days, resentment among people was significantly palpable, but as the days passed, the situation eased considerably, says Mahesh Shah in this report.

The demonetization reform has had mixed impact on local businesses. While textile traders do not seem frightfully affected by the move, much of their transactions being done in cheque, those dealing in cutlery rue the loss of fifty percent business in the wake of withdrawal of currencies.

The prime minister’s elder brother Somabhai Patel who is based in Vadnagar welcomes the move saying that it will reduce inflation and its effect will be felt in a year. He however favours less-cash economy rather than cashless transactions.

Karnali which is 60 kilometers from Gandhinagar is one of the four villages adopted by finance minister Arun Jaitely. Essentially a place of pilgrimage, Karnali is known for the famous Kuber temple. Interestingly, the finance minister of India has adopted the village of the finance minister of demi-gods.

According to Gopal Pandya who visited the village to study the post-demonetization scenario here, the village did not witness much commotion after the 8 November announcement. The two ATMs in the village had adequate cash which catered to the requirements of the local people. Local bank officials say after 10 days even the queues of people for depositing old currencies began to melt away.

However, this village too is at a loss like the rest of the country as to how to use the Rs 2000 currencies they are dumped with. Currencies of Rs 500 denominations prove equally elusive here like in the rest of the country.

Surprisingly in a town of little over 1000, nearly 700-800 people have their bank accounts and 90 percent people boast of debit cards, so the latest move has not had much impact on their day to day life, though temples in town had to face the brunt of paucity of lower denomination currencies.

The Amma is No More

After undergoing treatment for 75 days, the Amma breathed her last on Monday plunging the state of Tamilnadu in a state of grief. In this tribute to Jaylalithaa, Nagindas Sanghvi takes stock of the state after the demise of one of its most popular leaders.

Despite slyly encouraging a culture of sycophancy in the state polity, the mass leader who had a slew of cases of corruption slapped against her never experienced decline in her popularity graph in the state where she defied all rules of patriarchy and established what is termed by many as the autocratic rule.

No doubt, with her departure, an era has ended in Tamilnadu politics. The flipside of her politics is that no second line of leadership was cultivated and this will inevitably engender a new phase of uncertainty.

In a related piece, Samir Paleja traces her film career, noting that this remarkable woman reached the zenith in the two fields she hated most: politics and films.

Besides, the issue carries Political & Humour columns, Palak, Cardiogram, Health Helpline, Priyadarshini, fresh chapter of serialized novel, Jalsaghar and Mukhwas

Ishita’s Elchi

What is the definition of a good politician?

-One who can unhesitatingly tell good lies when he wants, is a good politician..!!