Clear the queues, netizens

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If you have access to digital banking or other instruments of cashless transaction, now would be the perfect time to confine yourself to such avenues as millions battle it out in the serpentine lines at banks and ATMs.

It's been 10 days since Prime Minister Modi's demonetisation drive was announced.

And my husband and I have not been to an ATM or a bank counter, yet.

We have deliberately kept away from >the queues in part because we know there are many, many others — daily wage–earners, domestic help, push-cart vendors, security guards, and many oter faceless, nameless millions — who need the cash much more than us.

In fact, they need cash desperately for bus fares, daily essentials, medicines, food.

So, we believe that by not standing in a queue, we are making it easier for the people who really need the money. We are making it a little more accessible for them.

That might sound incredibly naïve of us. But truth is, my husband and I are luckier than most of our fellow Indians. We are part of the privileged, tech-savvy middle class. Like many millions of others, we are armed with debit/credit cards for most big purchases. We use Paytm Wallet (a mobile commerce platform) for cab fares and many other payments, we do online bank transfers for power/water/other bills. For groceries, the local grocer even takes >Sodexo vouchers/coupons (that my husband's employer hands out every month) in lieu of cash. What's more, the chaps at our local HOPCOMS (government-run veg/fruit counters) outlet have told us they will accept (till November 24), the old Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes — which too is a great help.

Thankfully, we have also not had medical emergencies or sudden travel expenses, to cope with.

So we are able to manage.

By standing in queues that snake around the block, India's Net-savvy citizens are making it even more difficult for the ordinary folk who really need that cash.

But there is another factor at play too. We don't have large amounts of cash at home that we suddenly need to declare and deposit in our bank accounts. Just the opposite, in fact.

It is not that we don't need ready cash. I travel by auto most of the time (and at times, by bus), so I always treasure, (or should I say, hoard?) the Rs.100 and Rs.50/Rs.20 notes I get. What's more, raiding my little boy's piggy bank has yielded a bonanza in Rs.10 notes and Rs.5 coins! Also, two days ago, my husband bought himself a monthly card from the Bangalore Metro (he paid with an old Rs. 500 note at the counter). So we have decided to innovatively use the services that we have at our disposal. Of course, at some point, we need to go to our bank, we need to withdraw some money, but we can afford to wait it out, for a while longer.

Like us, my friend Maya too has not been to an ATM yet. As a mother of four, she has large grocery/weekly purchases to deal with. So she has been ordering what her family needs, from an online retailer and she uses debit/credit cards for all other purchases. And she too has Sodexo vouchers that she is now liberally making use of.

Thing is, there are millions of people, exactly like Maya, or like my husband and me, who don't really need to go stand in a queue at an ATM or local bank, especially the public-sector banks/cooperative banks. In fact, if you want hard numbers, consider this: Paytm has stated that users of its Paytm Wallet (for cashless transactions) is over 100 million now. Does that mean there are over a 100 million people in our cities — who really have no business standing in queues? Does that mean they too can, if they wish to, lead a ‘cash-less’ life for a while? And if that is the case, why on earth don’t they stay away from ATMs and bank counters, in order to relieve the congestion of people desperate to exchange, deposit or withdraw money?

After all, our cities are full of techies, upper-middle-class and Net-savvy citizens, who can benefit from and avail of the same cash-less services that we are now making use of. What’s more, many tech companies offer their employees the same privileges that we (two total non-techies) now have. Why not use those services? On the other hand, by mullishly staying put, by continuing to stand in queues that snake around the block, India's Net-savvy citizens are making it even more difficult for the ordinary folk who really need that cash.

So, why not be a little less selfish and get out of the queue?

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