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Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Once celebrated for being 'cashless', Telangana village goes back to old habit of using cash

After six months of the 'cashless' marathon, the picture of this model cashless village began fading.

After demonetisation threw the entire country into a tizzy, this village in Kamareddy district was celebrated as the first cashless village in December 2016. 

While urban places such as the district headquarter, Kamareddy, struggled to transition to a cashless economy, Ugrawai of Kamareddy mandal with a population of 1,500, delighted everyone by their embracing of technology. 
However, after six months of cashless marathon, the picture of this model cashless village began fading. 

The Gram Sabha, in the presence of Village Sarpanch Abbagouni Balakishan Goud, passed a resolution for the village to go cashless. Following this, the Sarpanch approached the local MLA, Gampa Govardan, who had earlier adopted the village under the Gramajyoti scheme launched by the Telangana government in 2015.


The MLA then instructed Kamareddy Andhra Bank and other officials to provide the required support for the villagers to go cashless.

Without much delay, the local bank officials distributed Point of Sale (POS)/swiping machines throughout the village at a cost of Rs 17,000.

It all went well for the first few months, but with time, people gradually began to go back to liquid cash, according to some villagers. 

The hitch, it appears, is that people are not well-acquainted with using swiping machines to do business. 

"There is no awareness amongst the villagers​ about how to make purchases using a swiping machine,” Lakshmi, the owner of Sri Lakshmi Store, says. 

“Many times, we didn't get the money we made through sales using swiping machines. Bank officials are not letting us withdraw more than Rs 2,000 from our accounts,” Lakshmi says. 

She says that people still prefer paying in cash since they find dealing with digital payments tedious. 

The other problem with going cashless is using card payment for small amounts. 
Sujata Chandra Goud, who runs a small tea shop in the village, says, "We bought a swiping machine soon after the Sarpanch asked us to, but who will swipe for Rs 10 or Rs 15?”

Bhasker, a customer at the tea shop, remarks sarcastically, “It was all ‘wow’ that it came in the newspapers, but no one is going cashless and it won’t happen in one go.” 

Going cashless also means that every business owner would have to invest in a swiping machine, since the machines were not given out for free. 

Madhavi, another shop owner says, "We didn't buy the machine despite the Sarpanch’s request, since it is very expensive. We can't afford to pay Rs 17,000 when we don't even make Rs 400-500 a day.”

However, the Sarpanch says, “So far we have managed to maintain more than 1,200 bank accounts and 'Rupay' cards in the village. Of course we are facing some trouble. We have issued notices​ to all the shops to get the swiping machine.”

"We can't do anything other than encourage people to buy through card,” he says. 

However he insists there is a silver-lining, as the mineral water plant run by Bala Vikasa, an NGO, is strictly making sales through POS. 
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