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India: Beggars earn respect as a source of loose change.

Summary: Scarcity in cash has led to fall in business affecting the livelihood of thousands

Archisman Dinda, Correspondent

Kolkata: With 'cash' being scarce in Indian markets, many traders have turned to beggars to find loose change.

"Post demonetisation, currency of every denomination has become scare and we had to go to beggars to get loose change from them. It was payback time as I borrowed from them and will refund when things normalise," said Shyamlal, a grocer in south Kolkata.

Beggars, who used to get scorned even till last Tuesday, are a happy lot having found new social respect. "It is funny that people who used to treat us with neglect are now coming to us for help. Many traders even came with gifts asking for the 'change' with a promise of paying an interest," said Shaik, who begs at a crossing in South Kolkata.

Similar stories were heard from various parts of the city where the unknown, faceless individuals have become persons of interest because of the cash they have in hand. "I sell tea at a crossing. Most of my customers are now asking me if I can help them change some money," said Bishu Das, a tea seller.

There were stories of unscrupulous activities as many had even approached the beggars to use their bank accounts to exchange money. "Some political guy came to me with an offer to give me Rs25,000 if I gave him Rs250,000 from my bank account," said Kanjilal, who begs in front of the temple in the city.

Government though has started a campaign asking people not to allow others to use their money most say that the sum offered as a commission is too large for them to refuse. "Through begging I earn around Rs5,000 (Dh271) a month. It is lot of money for me," Kanjilal said.

However, for the traders in Kolkata, it has been a harrowing week with business collapsing to one-tenth of its regular sales as many even have shut shop in fear of having to sell in credit. "I deal in motor parts and for ages almost 100 per cent of my business is in cash. I am forced to keep my shop closed as sales have dwindled and most people are asking for credit," Pratap Singh said.

Many estimate that the loss in business is far larger than the actual benefits of this move. "The way we are being heckled is unbelievable and it is unpleasant to stand in a queue for hours to get my own hard-earned money," said Sumit De, a software professional.

Though the city is divided as to whether this move will benefit India with many rooting that those who avoided tax are the ones who are creating more noise, others are feeling the brunt of this inconvenience.

"I was to travel with my family for a holiday. I am postponing it because of this ongoing fiasco. Cash has been and will remain the basis of transaction in the country. Trying to make it paperless will need time because the infrastructure is far from what is in it other countries," said Ayush Khanna, an Information Technology professional.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Nov 13, 2016
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