A month after demonetisation of Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes — that made up more than 80% of the country’s liquid cash in circulation — Delhi has changed the ways it travels, pays, shops and eats and spends its leisure time.
Most residents of Delhi have been regularly using their free time to stand in queues outside banks and ATMs. For others, the fear of standing in long queues has led to a change in their lifestyle.
Leisure time spent in queuing up
Mohammad Gazil Iqbal, 46, was spotted standing in a queue outside a public-sector bank on Asaf Ali Road for the fourth consecutive Thursday. Iqbal, who works as a supervisor in a transport company in Daryaganj, gets his weekly off on Thursday. He uses this day to deposit old currency notes that he gets from truck drivers — a routine he has now been following for three weeks.
“Most of the drivers give us old notes. We can’t say no because business is low these days. I work for more than 12 hours every day and the only off day I get is spent standing in queues,” he said.
Like Iqbal, most of the other people standing in queue too said that whatever free time they got from their daily business was spent trying to withdraw/deposit money.
The queues on Thursday consisted people from all walks of life.
Naisheel Vardhan, a mechanical engineer, said: “This is the sixth time that I am standing in a queue. The first five times, the bank closed before my chance could come. I heard that the queue will be shorter today. So I thought about giving it a try again.”
Study leave is queue day
Students coming to Delhi and staying in rented accommodation said that an off-day from coaching classes for them was now spent on ATM hopping. Saurav Digant, who lives in Kalu Sarai that has several engineering entrance coaching institutes, said: “Every Monday, which is an off-day at coaching institutes, me and my friends search for an ATM dispensing cash or stand in bank queues.”
Although several neighbourhood stores in the city mull the idea of procuring swipe machines, the switch over might take time. Many have already started shopping at food chains and department stores that accept plastic money. In the end, they complain that they end up spending more.
Jaquilline Laha, 21, an IT professional living in New Ashok Nagar, said: “I have Rs 900 left in cash with me which I do not want to spend. I buy everything, from milk to detergents, by paying extra delivery charges. I have also been booking cabs online instead of autos and e-rickshaws and end up paying more.”
For a section of people, the demonetisation drive has helped in increasing their savings as they have cut down on luxury expenses and are sticking to buying just the basics. They have also cut down on holidays and have stopped buying new clothes or organising parties. The Gupta family of Vasant Kunj, for instance, has dropped their annual holiday plans for Christmas and New Year this year. “We had planned to go to Ooty, which we cancelled. We had booked the tickets online that we later cancelled fearing problems. We don’t know the cash position in that city. You go to a vacation to enjoy and not to live in a fear of exhausting cash.”
Cutting down on meals
Raju Dhanok, who works as a labourer in a Noida factory, didn’t get his salary this month as the supervisor asked him to get a bank account opened as the company had decided to stop cash payments. “We stopped buying milk fifteen days ago. Now it is getting difficult to even buy groceries. We eat only once at night and survive on biscuits or bread in the day time,” he said. Like Dhanok, most of the other workers in his factory are now thinking of returning home as they did not have enough documents to get a back account. “We came here hoping for a better life as back. But, life here has taken a turn for the worse here since the last month,” he added.