Villagers bogged down by fear, ignorance

Driven by their ignorance of how the banking system functions and traumatised by fears that their hard-earned ‘white’ money could be usurped have forced illiterate villagers in many parts of the State to hold on to their Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes.

C. Pinnayi, who had previously served as a ward member of Paapapatti panchayat, said that some of the women in her village, out of panic, took photocopies of the Rs. 500 notes they had as a precautionary measure.

“There was fear that once they deposited the cash at the bank or post office for exchange, they will not be given new currencies immediately. So, they assumed that the photocopies will serve as a proof, if the situation demanded, that they actually possessed these currencies,” she said. Ms. Pinnayi added she was also worried about her son’s wedding slated on November 20. “I have borrowed from moneylenders to redeem gold jewellery pawned in a co-operative bank.

“However, officials there say they were yet to receive instruction on whether they can accept the cash,” she said.

V.R. Muthu Peyandi, a farmer who also runs a small grocery shop in Pullaneri, said that many people in the village approached him seeking help to deposit their cash in his bank account and return in new currencies.

“Though many have bank accounts, banks, like government offices, frighten them. They mostly rely on Banking Correspondents in the village to get their MGNREGA scheme wages and rarely go to banks. Moreover, when many elderly people still use thumb impressions, the banks are giving the withdrawal slips in English,” he pointed out.

“With the present limits on amount that can be withdrawn, I am not able to help many,” he said, adding that for the past two days, people had been buying vegetable and rice from his shop on the promise that they will pay later.

Trouble for elderly people

T. Socrates, a 55-year-old farmer from Paapapatti, said that his elderly mother, who had Rs. 10,000 she has saved in her old trunk suitcase, gave it to him to exchange in a bank. “I will return the money to my mother. But I know many families where such savings of the elderly could get appropriated by the family members now,” he said. N. Mahalakshmi from Karuppayurani, who works as a maid in a few households in Madurai city, said that she had to plead with three of her employees to get Rs. 100 from each of them to take her son, who had fever, to the hospital on Friday. “I had two Rs. 500 notes. However, the local clinic and pharmacy did not accept it.,” she said.

R. Siva, a small landholding farmer from Nattamangalam, said he had trouble issuing wages to those working in his land. “For instance, the wage for a person weeding one acre of land is Rs. 500. But the workers, predominantly middle-aged and elderly women who depend on their daily wages, hesitate to accept Rs. 500 notes (which has ceased to be legal tender),” he said.

‘Many have accounts. But banks frighten them. So, they rely on Banking Correspondents’

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