Demonetization in India: A Sunday morning at the ATM counter

Mr.Bannerjee was sulking. It was a bright sunny Sunday morning but still he was in a bad mood. Why? Because today he has to go to ATM to withdraw cash. He had been avoiding going to the bank and ATMs these last few days seeing the huge queues that always seem to present in front of them. But today he must. As he wearily went towards the nearby ATM he just hoped that queuing up early may put him somewhere in front of the line.

But that was not to be. Already at least a hundred people were already lining up in front of the counter. He sighed and stood behind the last man. He began to curse the Government’s  decision as images of harrowed persons running  frantically from banks to banks in search of cash came to his mind. These images were repeatedly being shown in news channels for the last few days. Everyone was there complaining, criticizing the demonetization move. As the time passed and sun started to bear down upon him he began to empathize with them.
He could catch snippets of conversation between persons standing in the queue.He understood the man,a forty something gentleman, standing in front of him was a OLA cab driver.Out of curiosity Mr. Bannerjee inquired “Are’nt you having trouble getting customers these days?”.The man replied, “Yes. As cash in hand has reduced, number of customers have surely dwindled. I am suffering loss”. Mr.Bannerjee reflected what good has this move done to common persons like himself or this cabdriver? They don't have any ‘Black Money’ to hide. Why should they suffer?
Suddenly the man spoke again.”But you know Sir this is a real good move.I am surely suffering but I know this is a temporary hurdle.In the long term this is going to do good to this country.I am willing to bear temporary hardship for greater good in the long term. ”Well, that was unexpected! He didn't expect to hear this, certainly not from a cab driver who has losing customers himself.

He remembered his wife talking of a fruit seller yesterday.That fruit-seller had told his wife that he totally supported this currency ban. He was thoroughly convinced that this is a solid step against the menace of black money. He was willing to bear with having less customers for the few days.
As the queue slowly snaked its way forward Mr.Bannerjee could hear more and more persons talking about the situation. He could catch the general mood of the persons standing. They seem to have come into terms with the situation. And not only because they have to but because they were hopeful that this move will do good for them, the ‘common people’ in the long term.They chatted about how this is the first actionable step taken by any Indian Government against black money. All they had been hearing till date are promises, plans and the need to curb this parallel black economy.
Mr.Bannerjee was now confused. Who are these people? They are indeed part the population termed as ‘Common Man’ and certainly all of them did not have affiliation to a certain political party. As he saw these bunch of people patiently standing in the queue he remembered that that has not been a single report of major unrest or violence in this issue throughout the country. For a country like India that is used to see violent protests, riots, road blockage, rail track blockage for every other issue this is a surprising situation. So are those so called ‘spontaneous’ protests really spontaneous? He remembered being stuck in a traffic jam for hours few days back as a group of villagers blocked the national highway and set fire to government buses because their village out of electricity for two days. And here everyday thousands and thousands of people and standing in front of ATMs and Banks for hours throughout the country and there has not been a major unrest till date. Yes certainly the population is suffering but they are doing it silently and patiently.
What has prompted this change? Is it the fact that common public has found some hope of improving their future? Is it the fact their pent up anger has been addressed? They have seen for so many years a certain group of persons hoarding up money illegally. Everyone seems to know who is having unaccounted incomes but no steps has been taken till date. Is this why the ‘common people’ seems to have somehow accepted the move willing to bear the hardships that come with it?
As Mr.Bannerjee finally got his cash he sighed a breath of relief. His major task of today is done. Suddenly the guard announced that cash reserve is finished.There is no more money to be dispensed now. Mr.Bannerjee started to have premonitions.There is still a queue of about thirty people. Sweating, tired and frustrated.
Well there were no sweltering abuses, no broken ATM glassdoor, no heckling of the guard. Grunts and sighs of frustrations could be heard. One man sighed ”This same thing happened to me yesterday. Guess my luck is running bad. I will have to try again tommorrow”.

As Mr.Bannerjee walked back he was thoughtful. He faced quite a different scenario than what is being portrayed in the media day in and day out. Getting out from in front of the TV and newspaper and going amidst the ‘common man’ had certainly forced him to change his perspective. A Sunday morning at the ATM was not a total waste after all.
Guest Post by Sudip Ray


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