A Make Believe Tale of a Cashless, Digitalized Indian Village

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Is it possible to achieve the dream of a cashless, digitalized Indian economy? If yes, then will it be effectively implemented in rural India? Let us imagine a scenario where it is definitely a possibility with smartphones taking place of a bidi in hand.

Ruhi, a 23-year-old pregnant lady was walking along the kaccha road towards the field. The dry air along with the hot sun above, make it extremely difficult for her to walk along the road lined by fields on either side. Like all villages in India, her village too has an active Wi-Fi connection to overcome the cash crunch that came due to demonetization a few months ago.

She places her hand on her waist, where she has tucked her smartphone in the crease of her saree petticoat. Ruhi suddenly feels dizzy and falls on the ground. With no help in sight, she removes her smartphone and with a few clicks she calls her husband. Ram Mahohar, Ruhi’s husband rushes to her aid and finds her unconscious on the road in time. He pulls out his smartphone and signs into a radio taxi app. Soon, the nearest rickshaw puller comes there way and helps him take his wife to the nearest Anganwadi centre.

Ram Mahohar paid the rickshaw puller as well as the Anganwadi centre using e-wallet. He says if it was not for digitalization, Ruhi would have never been able to call him for help and he, in turn, could have never been able to rush his pregnant wife to a health care centre in time. Going cashless has also helped him as he could easily pay the money on time, as he does not carry much cash with him when working in the fields.

He introduces us to his friend Raj Tyagi, a cobbler by profession. He says he was quite ecstatic about the village turning into a digital hub. He feels the village is now at par with the urban cities. His children can now access information over the Internet that was not possible before. As he himself has only studied up to class 3, it is now possible for his children to study better and go for higher studies.

His 10 year-old-son, Raju, however, complains the government should make sure the lights don’t go out often. With no electricity, it is very difficult to charge the smartphones as well as study after dark.

We went on to speak to Durga Devi, a 65-year-old, who lives with her widowed daughter-in-law. She says, her daughter-in-law uses a smartphone to pay to the village stores as well as at the hospital. Both women cannot read, however, the daughter-in-law is smart and is figuring out things with the help of her friend who can read.

Many men sitting at the village junction complained there are many swindlers who cheat illiterate and unsuspecting villagers. On the pretext of helping learn the method of creating accounts and passwords for e-wallets, they steal their personal details. Using it, they swindle many of hard-earned money from their e-wallet account. A few even order for things using the app from an unsuspecting person. This has led to a new breed of criminals, the e-pickpockets. The digital police are looking into the matter and helping the aggrieved parties.

However, everyone in the village was happy about going digital and cashless. This is also reflected in the Facebook status of the village’s Panchayat page.

Source: The Indian Express

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