In this demonetisation hysteria, who's talking about the poor NRI?

Their families have been cut off from their cash, and their hawala money is rotting in benami accounts.
People wait outside an ATM kiosk. (File | EPS)
People wait outside an ATM kiosk. (File | EPS)

KOCHI: Among the millions queueing up at banks and ATMs this week are the kith and kin of 2.6 crore NRIs. That's 4.5 per cent of the total households in India. These NRIs sent home Rs 4.62 lakh crore last year. Kerala is the largest recipient of international remittances. The other major recipients are Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.

Estimates suggest that an NRI sends Rs 30000 an average of per month to India. About 70-80 per cent of the amount is spent on running the household. But these last few days have disrupted that balance. NRI dependents are among the sections most affected by demonetisation.

Rajesh an expatriate who works in Qatar says demonetisation has left him short on his monthly EMI payments. "My LIC premium, home loan and chit fund instalments all add up to Rs 30,000 per month. But my family can draw only Rs 24,000 a week, that too with great difficulty. I am seeking help from others to arrange the rest of the amount. But no one has liquid cash right now.”

Apart from those struggling to keep up on their monthly payments, there are NRI families that are running from pillar to post to turn their black money white. The chairman of the Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust, K V Shamsudheen, narrated the story on one such NRI. He sold a property for Rs 28 lakh. A relative who works in a co-operative bank in Kerala advised him to deposit the money in lots of Rs 2 lakh in different names to avoid paying tax. He did so under 14 fictitious names with forged signatures. Now the NRI is panicky.

Then there are many NRIs who sent home money through hawala channels and deposited it in cooperative banks because they offer higher interest than NRE accounts and do not ask about the source of the funds.
The RBI has now denied permission to cooperative banks to accept deposits and exchange currency.
It is a known fact many people, mostly NRIs, sell their property without showing the full amount in the sales deed, keeping some of the proceeds in the form of unaccounted money.

“Demonetisation has not affected the remittances to the country as the amount is credited to bank accounts. But back home, NRI dependents are facing issues in withdrawing the amount. There is no facility to exchange the high denomination Indian currency with NRIs now,” said V George Antony, MD, UAE Exchange India.

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