Rizwana Parveen was the only one in her family educated enough to fill out a bank form and since no one else was in a position to lose a day’s salary by standing in queue to exchange cash, she had volunteered for the exhausting task.
For three days the 22-year-old woman stood in various queues outside several banks, but each day she returned disappointed.
On Sunday, Rizwana was found hanging from the ceiling fan at her home in east Delhi’s Khajuri Khas.
Her family members say she took the extreme step because of her frustration in being unsuccessful in getting cash. The Hindu visited the mourning family members on Tuesday who revealed that they had been struggling to feed themselves ever since the Rs.4,000 they had in savings was declared unusable at midnight on November 8.
With five children in a family of 12, even basic items such as milk and cereals had dried up. “We had managed on the first day with whatever little loose change we had. But after that we were left with no cash. A neighbour lent us some money, but that was not enough,” says Rizwana’s brother, Nawab, a daily-wage labourer.
Soon, even the neighbours said they did not have enough money to lend any cash. “We are told that the crisis will stay for 50 days. So, no one is in a position to help others,” says Haseena, a woman in the neighbourhood.
Even after Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes were declared illegal tender, Rizwana’s two younger brothers — Nawab and Asif — continued to get paid with Rs.500 note at the end of each day. When they asked for loose change, the employer allegedly threatened to fire them. So, they had no choice but to take home the unusable notes.
No one in the family has a bank account, so using plastic money was out of the question.
“No one in our family visited the bank on the first day. We expected the situation to improve by the second day,” says Nasir, brother-in-law of Rizwana.
From November 11, Rizwana would leave for the bank around 6 a.m. armed only with a water bottle, and return in the evening.
“The nearest bank is over one km away. She would walk to and from the bank,” says Nawab.
The first day she returned around 5 p.m., but without any usable currency. “She appeared crestfallen. We were disappointed too, but we told her that she would be successful the next day,” says Nasir, a labourer himself.
The next day too was disappointing. Apparently, she stood in queues outside three banks, but the cash dried up before she could reach the counter. “She sounded apologetic and very sad on the second day. Apart from revealing that she returned empty-handed, she said nothing else,” says Nasir.
Among themselves, the family decided not to make their disappointment and desperation obvious to Rizwana. “We were afraid she would come under pressure. But I think she sensed the desperation,” says Nasir.
The last straw
Rizwana had high hopes of being able to exchange the cash on Sunday, a holiday. But, when she finally had to return home empty-handed, she didn’t say a word to anyone and locked herself in a room.
Nasir knocked on the door, but received no response.
Then he peeped into the room through an opening, only to find her hanging from the ceiling fan.
No suicide note was recovered, but her family is insistent that there was no other reason for her to take her life.
The police have maintained that they are unsure if the lack of cash led to the extreme step and are probing whether there was any family tension over other issues.
The cash crunch continues to haunt the family even after Rizwana’s death.
“The family did not have cash even to visit the hospital where the post-mortem was conducted,” says Mohd. Ansar, Rizwana’s older brother who lives outside Delhi.
The family was left helpless even when it came to her funeral. But the neighbours managed to pool some cash together.
“I won’t comment about the merits and demerits of demonetisation, but it is we poor people who suffer always,” says Ansar.