Out of bank reach, most panchayats face currency crisis

Behera, a resident of Bainchua village is finding it hard to get the currency notes exchanged as there is no bank nor ATM in the panchayat.

Published: 16th November 2016 03:53 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th November 2016 06:23 AM   |  A+A-

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Residents of Bainchua discussing about demonetisation on Tuesday | Shamim Qureshy

Express News Service

BAINCHUA (Odisha): Barely a few weeks back, septuagenarian Laxmidhar Behera had sold his paddy stock and was happy to receive six notes of Rs 500 denominations when the manager at the mandi paid him Rs 3000 in cash.

But little did he know that these notes would be invalid soon. Even as he supports demonetisation, Behera, a resident of Bainchua village under Balianta block of Khurda district, is finding it hard to get the currency notes exchanged as there is no bank nor ATM in the panchayat.

“If I add my daughter’s savings of Rs 4,000, I have now 14 pieces of Rs 500 notes. To replace those notes, I have to go to Balakati, eight km away, where I have an account in a nationalised bank. What pains me is that I have to stand in queue and spend two days because they will not exchange Rs 7,000 at a time," he rued.

"Though I have money, I cannot use it. My nephew has assured me to give Rs 2,000 in exchange and deposit the rest amount in my account,” Behera said. But all are not lucky like him. Panchu Parida (55) of Velurihat, nearly 10 km from Bhubaneswar, is running from pillar to post to get his two Rs 500 notes exchanged.

He does not have a bank account. Nearby co-operative society refused to exchange the notes. “Where do I go with the notes? Do I need to hold an account in a bank to get notes exchanged? There are long queues outside banks. How can I open an account?" asked an ignorant Parida, who works as a construction worker. His woes, however, do not end here.

He has not got his wage for the last one week as the contractor is paying him old Rs 500 or Rs 1,000 notes which he is refusing to accept. With virtually no money in hand, he has been purchasing grocery and vegetables from the village market on credit for his 12-member family. Rural markets have also suffered a lot.

While many have no option but to give the goods on credit to clear the stocks, sales have dropped by almost 50 per cent. A betel shop owner Santosh Sahu at Satyabhamapur Chhack said the business is not as usual. It is difficult to sell goods worth Rs 200 a day, said Sahu. Like Bainchua, Odisha has around 4,400 un-banked panchayats out of total 6,238 panchayats.

Despite the Centre’s appeal to people not to panic, 70 per cent of panchayats with around 1.65 crore people constituting 47 per cent of the rural population of the State are forced to suffer as they do not have access to banking facilities. Even as officials claimed that steps have been taken to provide basic banking services in interior areas through Business Correspondents (BCs), a sizeable number of people in rural areas are deprived of reliable banking services.

The plan to launch mobile vans and micro ATMs is yet to materialise in most of such panchayats. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has written to Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to instruct the Reserve Bank of India and commercial banks to provide mobile banking services or set up temporary counters in unbanked panchayats to ensure that people do not suffer due to demonetisation.

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