A young Tabrez Alam has been living with a dented confidence ever since the demonetisation announcement. Visually impaired since birth, Alam could tell the difference between a real and fake ₹500 note by merely running his fingers across one.
The introduction of the new notes has left him worried. “The new ₹500 note appears to be of the same size as a ₹20 note. I can no longer tell the difference merely on the basis of the size of the note,” Tabrez says.
Tabrez and many others like him in the Capital are yet to understand the features of the new notes that may distinguish them from fake ones. They can no longer follow the practice of identifying currency notes on the basis of their length, breadth and tactile markings on the top, bottom and sides.
Trust an issue
“We had learnt the trick after months of practice. Now we have to unlearn most of them and understand the new features,” says Kala, a visually impaired woman.
For now, many visually impaired people are using either a ruler to measure the notes for accuracy before accepting them. Some are accepting the new notes without any verification, but only from people known to them.
Harish Kumar, another visually impaired man, says he has been accepting only ₹100 notes or lesser.
“I can be tricked into accepting a fake note,” says Harish, who works at a candle manufacturing unit in the city.
But handling a large number of notes comes with its own woes for the visually impaired. “It takes me more time, more trouble to count so many notes at once,” he says.
Problems for the visually impaired do not stop there. Harish recounts how he had to pay at least five trips to his bank branch in Bhogal to be able to withdraw money.
“The extra visits meant extra expenditure on travel. Even rickshaw pullers extract more money from us knowing we can’t see,” he says.
The bank staff was accommodating towards him, but even they could never sanction him the stipulated ₹24,000.
But Harish had to face his share of embarrassment too. “When I made repeated visits, the bank staff began asking me why I was spending my money so quickly. Why should I answer such questions,” he says.
Tabrez, meanwhile, was once not allowed to jump the queue because he “did not look blind”. “I had to convince people that I actually could not see,” he recounts.
On the anvil
The Blind Relief Association, which runs training centres and a school for the visually impaired, has plans to impart training to such people so that they are familiar with the new notes.
K.C. Pande, the honorary executive secretary of the association, says the visually impaired will also be trained in using mobile applications for making online payments.
Few visually impaired people, however, have been taking some of these inconveniences in their stride.
“If those with visibility cannot get cash, why should we blind people expect much?” says Harish, before walking off to pack clay candles in a basket.