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Don’t know what good it did: Man who became face of demonetisation struggles

Lal was seen in tears when he missed his spot in the queue at a bank in Gurgaon on December 13, more than a month after the note ban was announced

india Updated: Aug 31, 2017 19:46 IST
Rashpal Singh
Rashpal Singh
Hindustan Times, Gurgaon
Demonetisation,Note ban,Face of demonetisation
This photograph of Nand Lal taken on December 13 touched a raw nerve among thousands of readers who saw in him the embodiment of the struggles triggered by the November 8 decision to scrap Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 bank notes.(Praveen Kumar/HT)

“I don’t know what good it did, but I suffered”.

This is how Nand Lal remembers the weeks of cash crunch last year after the government decided to yank 86% of the currency in circulation. Lal, a 78-year-old former soldier who now lives alone, became the face of the struggles of millions after a photograph of him breaking down in a crowded bank was published in Hindustan Times.

Tens of thousands of people shared the photograph online, seeing in Lal the embodiment of a helplessness that lasted for weeks after the Prime Minister scrapped high-value bank notes on November 8 to fight “corruption and black money”. Long queues were seen outside banks and ATMs as people struggled to get their hands on legal tender, which was in short supply.

On December 13, Lal was one of those people inside the New Colony branch of the State Bank of India, where he was seen in tears after he lost his spot in the queue.

Nand Lal at his residence in Gurgaon’s Bhim Nagar on Thursday. (Sanjeev Verma/HT Photo)

More than eight months later, he says he is unaware of any gains that the exercise could have brought.

“Kya fayda huya notebandi se? Aap to jante honge. Main to akhbar bhi nahin pad sakta (What benefit did demonetisation do? You must know. I cannot even read a newspaper”, he says.

A widower, he lives in a rented 10x10 feet room at Bhim Nagar in Gurgaon.

After the media attention, he says, the bank officials started paying him attention and offered him pension without making him queue up.

“Initially, I mostly got notes of Rs 2,000 and had to struggle to get change. Later, the bank officials started giving notes of all denominations”, says Lal, glancing at his bank passbook.

Lal draws a pension of about Rs 19,000 and has to take a rickshaw to withdraw it from State Bank of India’s New Colony branch.

He shifted to Gurgaon from Pakistan during the partition and has served in the India army. He fought in the 1971 India-Pakistan war.

Army veteran Nand Lal draws a pension of about Rs 19,000 and has to take a rickshaw from his residence in Gurgaon’s Bhim Nagar to withdraw the amount from State Bank of India’s New Colony branch. (Sanjeev Verma/HT Photo)

Kalawati, Lal’s domestic help, says his daughter offered to take him to Faridabad but he wants to stay where he is. Lal’s wife died three decades ago after which he adopted a daughter.

Raghuveer Singh Meena, the manager of the SBI branch where Lal’s picture was taken in December, said staff now help him in all possible way.

First Published: Aug 31, 2017 15:58 IST