Tej Narayan from Kathmandu in Nepal was enthused when a private bank provided him a card swipe machine for charging customers at the 31st Surajkund International Crafts Mela-2017. He hoped to sail through the cash crunch due to demonetisation with the help of the machine.
His hopes were, however, dashed when the machine was taken away from his stall located behind the stage set up for cultural events immediately after Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar inaugurated the mela on February 1.
“The machine, provided by a private bank, was taken away from me as soon as CM inaugurated the event. I requested the bank officials to issue me a machine but nothing happened. I arranged a point of sale machine through local sources but it did not work due to jammers installed for security near the stage,” Narayan told HT.
He has been selling a variety of shawls for the last nine years at the fair and claimed that he bagged international award for Kala Ratan and the best foreign participant last year.
“Sales have dipped more than 40% this year as people do not have cash. Some willing customers drop the idea of buying after learning that we do not have swipe machines,” he said.
Effects of the demonetisation are clearly visible at the famous Surajkund fair even though authorities claimed to have provided about 100 point of sale machines, set up a bank branch, two ATMs, and six ATM vans. The state government had announced in January that this year’s mela would be cashless.
The international presence at the mela increased with 10 more stalls of foreign countries going up this year. But the foreign traders are feeling the heat of demonetisation as they are not able to get PoS machines or utilise other digital modes of payments.
“Sales have gone down by 40% this year. A majority of the customers who select items ask for payment with cards. We, being foreigners, could not get such machines here,” said Faouzi Kaabi from Tunisia. Kaabi sell olive wood products and this is his second stint at the fair.
Durbek from Uzbekistan said his sales dropped by 50% as customers do not have cash. A member of Khunarmand association, Durbek too has set up a stall for the second time at the fair.
Mohammad Shajid, who sells Banarasi suits at counter number 203, is also affected by the cash crunch. “People are paying both through card and cash but sales are down by 60% this year. It seems people do not have money,” he said.
“We wanted to buy two carpets costing ₹25,000 each from the stall of Temorzada carpets of Afghanistan but we did not have cash. The stall owner was not ready to accept a cheque and neither did he have any other mode of payment. So we dropped the idea,” said Sumedha Wadhwa, a South Delhi resident.
A government official looking after the arrangements at the fair said the PoS machines were provided and cashless transactions have been advertised at all stalls but effects of cash shortage are apparent. He said the footfall too has decreased this year.