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While RBI was counting demonetised notes

The rural food chain didn't have to wait for data to realise what a disaster DeMo was

By Devadeep Purohit
  • Published 3.09.17

On November 14, 2016 - the seventh day of demonetisation - this correspondent had visited Kendur village, 140km from Calcutta, to gauge how the cash recall was affecting Burdwan, the rice bowl of Bengal.

The report published the next day had featured Uday Hazra, an affluent farmer; Shiva Sambhu Das, a farm labourer; Sarashi Jasan Samanta, a fertiliser shopkeeper; and Samir Sahana, who runs a poultry farm.

The separate accounts of the four constituents of the rural economy had then suggested that the currency crunch had crippled the rural food chain. Hazra didn't have cash to pay farm labourers to harvest paddy and prepare for potato cultivation; Das didn't have work as big farmers didn't have cash; and Samanta and Sahana didn't have customers in their shops.

On Wednesday, the RBI came out with a report that said 99 per cent of the scrapped high-denomination notes had been deposited back in the system, which struck at the core of the Narendra Modi government's justification to disrupt the economy. Although the government is still claiming a host of gains from the demonetisation, The Telegraph renewed contact with the four players in the rural economy to find out how the demonetisation affected their lives while the RBI was counting the cash mountain.

Their stories follow:

“The past 10 months were the worst for me and my family as agricultural activity suffered immensely because of absence of cash,” Hazra said on Thursday, a day after the RBI figures were made public.

“I had to sell paddy and oil seeds at lower prices than expected because buyers didn’t have cash. They could not pay me in new notes and I didn’t want to take old notes and hence my earnings dipped. I could not properly carry out potato cultivation because I didn’t have cash to buy seeds and fertiliser…,” said Hazra, whose family collectively owns 28 bighas.

He said all fellow farmers — around 90 per cent of the 680 families in the village are agriculturists — had the same story to tell. Asked about the impact of the lower earnings, Hazra, a retired government employee, said the family had to cut down on costs and he had to drop the plan of visiting his daughters, an annual ritual that he followed since they were married off.

He added that the income dipped by Rs 91,000 in the past 10 months.

Pictures by Partha Protim Koner