The Central government has given Rs 153 crores in cash awards -- ranging from Rs 1,000 to Rs 1 lakh -- to about 10 lakh people picked through lottery since December 25 for practising cashless transactions.
The awardees, the government said, had encouraging tales to tell about how digital payments changed their lives for the better.
Launched by the National Institution for Transforming India (Niti) Aayog, the lottery picks people daily for an award of Rs 1,000 each and a bumper prize of Rs 1 lakh every week.
Aayog’s chief executive officer Amitabh Kant said the award was encouraging people to go cashless and wanted people to emulate the awardees by adopting digital transaction.
Going cashless is the new mantra of the government, though Prime Minister Narendra Modi had initially projected his demonetisation measure – banning higher denomination currency – as a drive against black money.
HT reporters went to meet several of the awardees to learn about their experiences with cashless economy. Though some painted a very rosy picture, not all shared the optimism. Some in fact, has fallen back on cash transactions.
Ram Roop Giri, 42, Lakhimpuri Kheri (Uttar Pradesh)
The agriculturist has won Rs 1,000 for going cashless, but right now, 80% of his transactions are in cash. “Even shops that have POS machines prefer cash. If I tell them I do not have cash, they give goods on credit and wait for up to a week for cash payment,” the political science graduate says.
“In fact, people want to save tax that they would be required to pay to the government when their transaction comes on record. They fear digital transactions will be monitored and they would not be able to evade taxes,” Giri, a political science graduate, said.
The government though while giving him the reward said cashless transactions were Giri’s preferred mode. “Soon more and more will realize the ease of doing online transfer,” the government quoted him as saying. The nearest ATM is 9 km from his home.
But Giri now says digital transaction is his last option as most shops don’t have swipe machines.
Jayanthi SF, 29, Tirupur (Tamil Nadu)
She won Rs 1 lakh under the government’s Lucky Grahak Yojana and the government quoted her saying that digital modes of payment would help to curb black money in the country.
When HT contacted her she said they used to do cashless transactions extensively before demonetisation and were not sure whether going cashless would curb black money. She said the government should provide more incentives for digital transactions and remove the hurdles.
“I am fortunate enough to be able to use things like a debit card and RuPay for most of my transactions, but what of people who do not have access to those methods? A digital economy is an important thing, but you should make the transition much more comfortable,” Jayanthi, who recently enrolled in Masters in Engineering, said.
Mudanna Shetty, 44, Thane (Maharashtra)
The dhaba owner who won Rs 50,000 cash award termed the government’s cashless spending as a 50-50 situation as he still makes transactions using hard cash.
Although the government said that Shetty started using digital payments at his Kaka ka Dhaba when he heard of ease of money transfer during demonetisation the businessman told HT that he installed the swipe machine in January 2015.
As his dependence on cashless transaction increased since demonetisation, Shetty prefers the mode now though there are roadblocks. “It (cashless) will bring a lot of transparency and track the corrupt,” he says.
Jatangi Saidulu Yadav, 31, Suryapet (Telengana)
Yadav, the only earning member of his family won an award for cashless transaction, told the government that cashless was better as getting change for high denomination notes was difficult and helped him during demonetisation.
Using online transaction for three years, he told HT that the frequency of cashless transactions has increased during demonetisation but has now reduced as cash flow in ATMs has improved.
Saidulu said the digitisation of currency has led to additional burden on consumers as some shops in Suryapet and other bigger towns demand 1-2% extra on the cashless transaction in the name of surcharge. “This is where I am compelled to pay in cash. Otherwise, I prefer online mode,” he said.
Asha Damodhar, 42, Kasargode (Kerala)
The government used Damodhar’s case study to say demonetisation has infused cashless transaction among people and the impact of demonetisation has eased. The reason cited for she opting for online mode was that one does not have to pay in round figures.
The school teacher told HT that situation after demonetisation was not normal yet and villagers still have problems paying through credit and debit cards.
“Many still believe hard cash is everything and nothing will happen without it. We have to forego this notion first. The government will have to give some sops to encourage digital payment to make it popular,” she said, who provides tips to locals on digital payment.
Kuldeep Beniwal (32), Karnal (Haryana)
The government said this Haryana farmer opted for digital payments after the demonetisation and quoted him saying that scrapping of notes have given enough reasons for everyone to shift to cashless as it was “safe” and “convenient”.
A winner of Rs 1 lakh, Beniwal told HT that he has not visited his bank since November 20 and made most transactions using his mobile phone. “Payment to my labourers, school fee, doctor and even grocery store was through my mobile phone,” he said.
A school drop-out after his father’s death said that the farming community can go cashless provided they get necessary incentives and awareness.
(With inputs from Gaurav Saghal in Lucknow, Aditya Iyer in Chennai, Neeraj Mohan in Karnal, Srinivasa Rao Apparasu in Hyderabad, Dipanjan Sinha in Mumbai and Ramesh Babu in Thiruvananthapuram)