No notes to woo votes

Money mess:  Congress party recently organised block-level  protests across around 820 blocks  in Uttar Pradesh
Money mess: Congress party recently organised block-level protests across around 820 blocks in Uttar Pradesh

Aziz Ansari, a 60-year-old factory worker in Meerut, died of a heart attack while waiting in a long bank queue. Across Uttar Pradesh, there is widespread anger among millions of citizens — old, infirm, men and women — who are forced to face serpentine queues outside banks and ATMs to change small amounts of demonetised notes for legal tender. Be it be poor labourers, farmers, traders or hospital patients, all have started aggressively opposing sudden and unprepared decisions, resulting in law and order problems.

Most political parties are opposing the sudden demonetisation as being arbitrary and politically motivated in view of the Assembly polls in early 2017.

BSP supremo Mayawati alleged in a press conference: “The situation after the demonetisation was like imposition of an undeclared economic emergency which is against the Constitution and a most condemnable step. Modi government has taken the demonetisation decision in a hurry with hundred percent political interests of BJP in mind. It has caused difficulties to 90 percent of the common people,” she added.

She questioned how a decision which has caused problems to 90 percent of the people could be in the interest of the nation. “Now to prove that his wrong decision was correct, the Prime Minister is getting emotional and shedding tears. What is this if not emotional blackmail?” Mayawati commented.

UP Congress party organised block-level protests across around 820 blocks of the state on 25-26 November. While grassroots-level units organised the two-day protests, senior leaders demonstrated in front of the regional office of the RBI in Kanpur on 25 November, targeting not just the Centre but also RBI for unavailability of cash in banks and ATMs. These protests continued by district units holding a 1 km march and a dharna at all district headquarters on 28 November to join the call of opposition parties
to mark ‘Jan Akrosh Diwas’ across the country.

Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav opposes the decision as being ‘anti-people’. He said that his party is against black money but it opposes the way the Union government implemented demonetisation. People must be given some prior information about the move with an opportunity to deposit demonetised currency. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav opposed the move, saying it was taken keeping in view UP elections. He met the Prime Minister to request that primary cooperative banks deposit and exchange new currency to ease out pressure on nationalised banks.

CM Akhilesh Yadav took a serious view of public complaints of police misbehaviour and lathi charge on the public lined up before banks and ATM machines. On the charges of misbehaviour with people standing in queue at a Barabanki bank, constable Ajay Kumar Singh has been suspended and police outpost incharge Arvind Kumar Sharma has been sent to lines. Fatehpur SP Ram Kishore and Kishunpur SHO Sanjay Kumar Yadav were suspended. Similar incidents are being reported from various other parts of the state including Bagpat, Agra, Aligarh,

Unnao, Sitapur, Lakhimpur Khiri, Hardoi and Kanpur. “It as a revolutionary step that would radically change the dynamics of the growth and poor people would be benefited in the long run,” comments Harish Chandra Srivastva, chief spokesperson of state BJP. “Our party is against black money and corruption and will strive to achieve it as our objectives,” he said.

Nobody can deny the fact that apart from hitting hard the normal life of common citizens, demonetisation will adversely affect the poll calculations of all the political parties except BJP, as it will restrain

unaccounted spending for organising big rallies to pull crowds. Organising transport and posters for candidates will be a problem. It will be interesting to watch its fallout. Bankers are worried as excess deposits would generate interest liability, making their survival tough. Normal bank operations could not be resumed even after three weeks of the demonetisation as there is acute shortage of currency notes, including smaller denominations. Some banks distributed 10 coins for withdrawal of 500 or 1,000. Despite working overtime, no respite is in sight for bank employees, who are bracing for more public pressure as salary disbursement starts.

Some cases of suicides have been reported due to mounting pressure of unavailability of cash on the eve of marriage ceremonies. Shabana, a 20-year-old woman from Shamli, western UP, committed suicide after her brother returned home without exchanging currency notes. Retired school teacher Raghunath Verma, 70, in Jalaun district of Bundelkhand area, died waiting outside a bank. He went to withdraw money for meeting the marriage expenses of his daughter. In his distress, he developed chest pain and died. Such incidents are inciting public opinion against the demonetisation move taken by the government.

The rural areas of the state are worst affected, as sowing season was on and farmers are the worst sufferers. Worried over after failing to exchange old currency notes, 60-year-old farmer Ashok Kumar of Kakrara village under Khairagarh police station of Firozabad district committed suicide by hanging himself. Another farmer Amar Singh, 60, of Mawai village could withdraw only 2,000 from the bank in Banda district, where he had gone to withdraw money for the wedding of his nephew scheduled at Lucknow.

The rural banking system shut down as cooperative banks in the state did not get cash from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for daily business operations. Cooperative bank employees were on strike to protest RBI policies that has affected the business of more than 500 crore. Even the coffers of rural branches of nationalised banks are running empty, multiplying the miseries of people living in villages. Long queues were seen in such areas as there is no cash to disburse.

Private nursing homes and doctors were not kind enough to treat the patient in these hard times. A one-year-old boy suffering from high fever in Mainpuri died after doctors stopped treating him as his parents ran out of 100 notes. In another case, a child died because the parents had only old currency notes. Several deaths have been reported from hospitals because they refused to accept old currency notes.

Printer and publisher Manish Goel says demand in the market has been drastically reduced to 10 percent only. This has forced him to retrench most of his workers for six months. He asked his workers to get in touch every fortnight after January for availability of jobs. As and when money flow improves, he would re-employ them. President of the Lucknow chapter of Indian Industries Association Surya Prakash Havelia admits that there is sharp fall in production demand but he is with the decision of the government. Overall, conditions of construction workers have worsened ever since demonetisation hit as activities came to a standstill, resulting in huge unemployment for these daily wage earners.

[email protected]