Demonetisation and industrial woes

Katrisarai’s old nostrums stagger on demonetisation shot

Jay Prakash Prasad, a vaidya at Katrisarai in Bihar, with packets of the concoction he sells.   | Photo Credit: Ranjeet Kumar

Long before Viagra hit the market in 1998, the vaidyas (‘physicians’) of Katrisarai in Bihar’s Nalanda district were running highly successful businesses mailing products plugged as aphrodisiacs and cures for a variety of mainly sexual and skin ailments to seekers of cures who prefer anonymity.

The average monthly revenue of the Katrisarai sub-post office prior to demonetisation was a startling Rs. 75-90 lakh, though post-demonetisation, from November 9 to 30, it was down to a mere Rs. 18.82 lakh. “This is actually a sub-post office and yet, it’s the top revenue generating post office in the State and is also among the top 10 [revenue generating post offices] in the country,” postmaster Nagendra Prasad told The Hindu.

The nondescript village with a population of nearly 8,000 has been a hub for vaidyas — some allegedly fake, others said to be genuine — who offer shartiya elaaz (guaranteed treatment) with locally mixed powders. “It has been like cottage industry here since the British period. I am the fourth generation of my family doing this business,” 59-year-old Kishore Kumar told The Hindu. Mr. Kumar says there are 40-50 “genuine” vaidyas in the town. But the post office has a list of 179 vaidyas who regularly courier their formulations in insured parcels.

Going places

Inside the freshly whitewashed post office, which functions out of an old house, rows of large plastic bags containing small wooden boxes packed with locally mixed formulations are ready to be sent off to every corner of the country — Kerala, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana. “Parcels from here were earlier even sent to some African countries, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan,” said a post office employee. “We undertake only insured value payable post parcels and charge Rs. 103 for each weighing up to 500 grams.”

Most of Katrisarai’s self-styled vaidyas build their enterprises with advertisements published in vernacular newspapers of various States with their contact numbers. Ami Chand, an Ayurvedic practitioner, is said to have first succeeded in such an enterprise from here and, since then, his legacy has been taken forward by his family members and other villagers. Today, almost every household here has a vaidya. The prosperity that the business has brought to the village can be seen both in the way the houses are built and in the SUVs parked outside them.

Demonetisation has changed all that.

‘Fraud and fake’

Pinki Prasad, station in charge of the Katrisarai police station, says “Most of them [the vaidyas] are fraud and fake. Several of them have also been arrested in the past five years.” This year, over two dozen people have been arrested, while in September 2012, altogether 70 people were arrested, she adds.

On the police station premises, heaps of seized wooden boxes containing fake aphrodisiacs and drugs are piled in one corner. “We are [now] getting income details of the self-proclaimed vaidyas here from the post office and bank accounts to send them to the Income Tax Department. They earn in crores but pay almost nil tax,” investigating officer Rajesh Kumar told The Hindu.

Demonetisation appears to have stopped these enterprises in their tracks. It [demonetisation] has rendered us paupers. Our couriered parcels are being returned every day and we are also not able to buy raw materials from the local market as we have no cash. The workers too have gone away as we are not able to pay them in the new currency notes,” echoes a group of vaidyas, including Uma Charan Chaurasia, Mukesh Kumar Gupta, Pappu Kumar Chaurasia, Jay Prakash Prasad and Kishore Kumar.

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Printable version | Nov 23, 2021 10:33:57 PM |

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