A retired armyman in tears: Face of India’s cash crunch woes talks of heartbreak
Nand Lal, a 78-year old retired soldier who became the face of demonetisation blues in Gurgaon, lives alone in a dingy 10x10-foot room, blocks away from the home that he once owned.
His adopted daughter seldom visits him after he married her off about 15 years ago.
“She sold the house after she got married and went away to Faridabad. Now I live here,” he said on Thursday, tapping his walking stick on the floor of his rented room at Bhim Nagar in Gurgaon’s sector 6.
A small bed, a trunk, a plastic chair, a bucket, an ashtray, water bottles and two portraits of gods Shiva and Ganesh are the only belongings the elderly man has to call his own.
And of course, an account with the State Bank of India in which the government credits his pension for his service to the nation, including braving enemy bullets and artillery shells along the border in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir.
It was this very pension that he sought to withdraw at the SBI’s New Colony branch in Gurgaon, but he had to beg officials with folded hands for some cash even after queuing up for three days.
Frustrated, his eyes welled up and tears trickled down his wrinkled face.
The picture of the old man in tears, published in HT on Wednesday, became a social media sensation and stirred the conscience of a nation struggling under a cash crunch after the Narendra Modi government’s shock recall of 500- and 1,000-rupee notes.
“Humko apna paisa kyon nahi dete. Pehle tayyari kyon nahi ki... (Why aren’t they giving my money? Why didn’t they prepare),” Lal said, echoing sentiments of millions of people standing in queues for hours outside banks and ATMs across the country.
Lal was finally allowed to jump the queue and withdraw money.
“I have to pay my domestic helper, the grocer and the milkman. I got a pension of Rs 8,000 pension in first week of December. I wanted to withdraw Rs 1,000,” he said.
Lal shifted to Gurgaon from Pakistan during Partition. His wife, neighbours said, died three decades ago after which he adopted a daughter. The only contact with his daughter now is when she sends him some money. His spends his day between his room and a tea shop nearby.
“My daughter sold the house after she got married some 15 years ago. Now I live here alone,” Lal said, pointing to his living space on the ground floor of a three-storeyed house.
Dinanath Ahuja, a retired mechanic who witnessed Lal’s plight at the bank, said he hasn’t seen Lal’s daughter visiting the septuagenarian.
“He borrowed Rs 100 from me to pay the rickshaw-puller who took him up to the bank for three consecutive days.”
Lal describes his life within a squalid room, two square meals, bank queues and a daughter who doesn’t care with lines from a Bollywood song.
“Jab dil hi toot gaya, hum jee ke kya kare (What’s the use of living with a broken heart?),” he asks.
Karnataka Animal Husbandry Minister Prabhu B Chavan appealed to people not to sacrifice cattle for the Bakrid festival while warning of stern action against the offenders. The Minister emphasised the Cow Slaughter Prohibition Act has already been in force in Karnataka. Generally, during the Bakrid festival, there is a tradition of sacrifice, for which livestock such as cow, ox, calf and camels are also used, said Chavan.
Chandigarh Chandigarh administrator Banwarilal Purohit on Wednesday gave in-principle approval for a synthetic running track at Sukhna Lake. UT adviser Dharam Pal, said, “The Chandigarh Heritage Conservation Committee had earlier given its go-ahead for the proposal. Next, the detailed plan and cost estimates will be prepared; and then, tenders will be floated for the project.” A UT official said the proposed track is part of the administration's efforts to give Sukhna Lake a major facelift.
The National Highway Authority of India has approved two over-bridges, which are likely to reduce travel time between Kalka and Zirakpur and alleviate traffic jams on the stretch by next year. NHAI has already floated tenders for the 60-m wide over-bridges, which will be constructed at a cost of ₹50 crore. It has invited bids for the “construction and site improvement of the four-lane national highway (NH-22) on the Zirakpur-Parwanoo junction.”
Fifteen students had a narrow escape after their school bus skidded into a waterlogged open drain in Daulat Singhwala village in Phabat area of Zirakpur. The bus, which was ferrying students of Blue Bird High School, Sector 16, Panchkula, was making way for another school bus when it skidded into the overflowing drain. The bus tilted in the drain, but passersby and parents were able to rescue the children through the driver's window.
Tricity residents woke up to heavy rainfall for the second time this month on Wednesday. Three people went missing after a taxi, shuttling two commuters, was swept away in a flashflood in the Patiala-Ki-Rao rivulet as the driver attempted to cross the causeway in Tanda Village near Nayagaon. The owner of the vehicle, Rakesh Kumar told the police that Gaurav had called him saying two people, travelling to Baddi, had booked his cab.