Modi effect? Short queues outside ATMs, banks as PM visits Varanasi
Queues with no more than seven to eight people outside ATMs in Uttar Pradesh’s Varanasi were like a mirage. For travellers from Delhi, who have seen nothing but mile-long lines since the government scrapped the Rs 500/1,000 notes on November 8, this was nothing short of a miracle.
We watched (in shock and awe) as people went in and came out counting their cash.
Locals in the city — that will go to polls in the new year — were quick to point out that cash crunch was eased as soon as news of its MP, no less than the Prime Minister of the county, Narendra Modi was expected to make a quick dash to his constituency.
“Modi ji ke aane ki khabar sunte hi note bhi aa gaye,” (The notes arrived with the news that Modi ji will be coming),” our driver Deepak pointed out.
Elsewhere in the city, the stress of having no loose change, or looking for digital payment options was conspicuous by its absence. There are no advertisements for digital payment wallets plastered across the city nor have banks put up posters nudging people to switch from cash payments to cards.
Ramji, a sales person at one of the big sari stores in the city, says most of their clients now use plastic money, but he senses distress among the poor weavers.
“This (demonetisation) seems like a good move. The ‘big fish’ are finally getting caught,” he laughs. ‘Big fish’ is a euphemism for the corrupt.
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He throws in names of a few — a lady doctor, a government official, a businessman — who made it to the city’s headlines for having amassed wealth beyond their known sources of income.
The drive against the ‘big fish’ has won the Prime Minister admirers in the city of ‘moksha’ (liberation). Most here are not interested in the other consequences of demonetisation: the snuffing out of counterfeit currency or the so-called death blow to terror and drug outfits as claimed by the government. For them it is just a move that cracks down on the corrupt and somehow ensures a level playing field.