KOLKATA: Despite the hardships faced due to the demonetisation move, Bengalis can’t seem to live without their cigarettes and paans (betel leaf).
The addiction is to such an extent that many Kolkatans are ready to break open their piggy banks and spend the collected two and five rupee coins to satiate their ‘need’, and not use their priced green Rs 100 notes.
Rs 2 and Rs 5 notes being out of circulation is collected and stored by several Bengalis. However, in the event of sudden demonetisation that has lead to a scarcity of the Rs 100 notes, they are ready to do away with the lesser denomination ‘artefact’.
“I smoke up to 7 cigarettes a day, albeit of the cheaper brands. So, I am rationing my Rs 5 notes,” said Shyamal Mukherjee, a resident of Garia in south Kolkata.
The paan-cigarette shops are also seeing a flurry of the lesser denomination notes. “At first I was suspicious when I got crisp new Rs 2 notes as I am used to seeing such currency notes in a tattered state. On inquiry, a customer told me he is using his collection of Rs 2 notes to buy cigarettes,” said a beaming Ratan Yadav at the busy Chowringhee junction in central Kolkata.
Some are even resorting to use up the collection of coins from their money banks. “A customer came to me with a plastic full of Rs 5 and Rs 2 coins to buy a pack of high-end cigarettes. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry,” said paan shop owner Bappa Haldar.
The customers, however, are unfazed over spending away their low denomination notes.
“Cigarette is a need. The Collection is a luxury, which if released in market today can be garnered again tomorrow,” said Pintu Singh of Bhowanipore.
"What else should I do? I cannot give away the Rs 100 notes. Rs 10, Rs 20 and Rs 50 notes are used for daily household needs. What I am left with are coins and Rs 2 and Rs 5 notes," said Shantanu Sadhukhan a resident of Bansdroni.