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Demonetisation: Here’s what two Maharashtra farmers did to save their money

Mumbai city news: Two farmers in Maharashtra, whose cash was seized by Election Commission officials and returned past the December 30 deadline, are counting on the Supreme Court’s suggestion to the Centre to get their money back.

mumbai Updated: Jul 06, 2017 10:25 IST
Ketaki Ghoge
Ketaki Ghoge
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Demonetisation,Maharashtra,Election Commission
The farmers had counted on being able to exchange their cash for valid money in the time provided till March 31. However, they were turned away by the RBI.(File Photo)

Ajit Yadav, a struggling farmer from Maharashtra, may have given up on this year’s monsoons, but he still has faith in the judiciary.

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation announcement turned his life upside down, the Supreme Court’s observation this week has given him hope that he may still be able to recover his Rs 4.60 lakh.

Yadav’s ordeal began on November 11, 2016, when he was on his way to the bank to turn in his demonetised notes. He had picked up his friend Ganesh Nirwal, who also had some cash, when Election Commission officials seized their cash suspecting it was part of a cash-for-vote scam.

“I got cash from the sale of 170 quintals soya bean on November 7. On November 9, the old notes were scrapped. Two days later, I was heading to the bank in a borrowed car to deposit these notes. I took a detour to Gangakhed taluka, where I had to pick up my friend (Nirwal), who also wanted to deposit notes. Campaigning for the local council elections was underway in the taluka, which led to an inspection of our car. Local election commission officials seized our cash and alleged it was for campaigning,” said Yadav, who owns six hectares of land in Parbhani district.

His friend Nirwal had lost Rs 35,000.

The two farmers from Marathwada eventually got their money back after an inquiry and a hearing by Income Tax officials was held in Aurangabad. However, the money was returned on January 9, well past the government’s December 30 deadline to deposit old notes.

”We went for a hearing where I presented the receipts of the sale at Prabhani’s Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee on December 11. But, by the time the order to release our money was issued and finally reached the local election commission office, it was too late.”

Yadav said he still felt optimistic at the time as the Prime Minister said another window would be open until March 31. So, for three days, Yadav and Nirwal camped outside the RBI office in Mumbai in January, but they were turned away. They were told only a court order could now come to their rescue. So, they decided to file a public interest litigation.

For Yadav, the loss of this cash has had a cascading effect on sowing this year. He managed to sow soya bean on 12 acres of land on June 7 after raising some credit, but the crop failed owing to inadequate rains, wiping out an initial investment of Rs 45,000. The farmer hopes to get his Rs 4.60 lakh back so he can sow cotton.

“I think many citizens relied on Prime Minister Modi’s announcement on November 8 as well as the RBI notification issued later that day that an opportunity would be given until March 31 if for some reason citizens failed to deposit their notes until December 30. In the case of my petitioners, they are being penalised for not depositing money that was not with them in the first place, but with the government,’’ said Dilip Taur, Yadav’s advocate who also hails from Marathwada.

Taur said the RBI issued a notification again on December 30 stating an opportunity would be given only to those who were outside the country during this time period, which he said was unfair for many who were relying on a revised deadline.

Since the top court’s observation on Tuesday, Taur has received several calls from other farmers in Maharashtra facing a similar predicament.

First Published: Jul 06, 2017 09:20 IST