It starts with fear and ends too with fear, until next time!
Recently, while travelling to Muzaffarpur, my native town in Bihar, I happened to visit a newly opened SBI ATM kiosk.
To give a brief about Muzaffarpur, once it was the biggest cloth market of North Bihar and with fair market share of Marwari community, they had big businesses and sprawling showrooms. People from all over the northern region of Bihar used to shop there. Almost every big Marwari businessman out there had a cloth mill in Surat. And their market was Muzaffarpur. Due to the increase in crime and kidnappings, they slowly moved out and the market went almost dead.
Muzaffarpur is a Tier 3 city and despite financial inclusion and penetration taking place over the last couple of years, 95 percent of the junta still believes in cash transactions. However, thanks to Paytm’s huge cash burns towards educating Indians about wallets and sending money through mobile, awareness is finally being generated.
Due to the belief in cashless transactions, the habit of carrying cash has died inside me. And due to that crunch of cash in pocket while being there in Muzaffarpur, this ATM visit happened.
The scene was fantabulous. I was the seventh person in line and I went up there at around 4:15 pm. The crowd seemed rather relaxed. Usually, being the seventh or even tenth man in a Kolkata ATM would mean getting my turn in five to seven minutes. Once the clock struck 4:25 pm, I asked the man next to me, “What’s up? Why is that person taking so much time?” I got only a blank expression and smoke from the bidi this guy was smoking blown in my face as a response.
By the time I was second in line, it was 4:40 pm. I was feeling impatient and the heat was just increasing my frustration.
The guy who was about to get into the ATM looked back at me, smiled, and said, “Don’t worry, you will also get your time.” Although I smiled in response, what I really wanted to do was to say, “Yeah, I know idiot; tell me something new!” However, what I heard next was actually new:
Andar AC mein hawa acha hai.. Paisa nikalo mat nikalo, hawa kha ker.. pasina sukha ker ke hi nikalna (Whether or not you withdraw money, just enjoy the cool AC air inside) I nodded.
He said, “Look, whenever I pass from here, I go inside and enjoy the AC.” Out of curiosity, I asked him, “Do you never take out money?”
“Yes, yes; a couple of times. But I prefer to go to the bank to take out cash.”
I asked him why he went to the bank when there were multiple ATMs in the city. He said:
Darr lagta hai, card kahi andar na fas jaye.. Aur kahi paisa jyada nikal jaye toh? Sabse toh dar lagta hai, ki dabaye kuch aur nikal jaye kuch, toh kisko pakarenge? Bank mein kum dega toh wohi per dhar lenge na usko! Hai ki nahi?
(It’s scary to take out money with a card. What if the ATM doesn't give back the card? And if more money than I had asked for comes out? And the most fearsome factor is: What if I enter an amount and receive less cash?Who will I get hold of for this? Who will solve this problem?)
I told him that wasn’t the case — ATMs don’t keep cards inside and even if they do, banks will be able to sort out the problem. I also told him there was no need to fear for money because ATMs dispense only the amount asked for.
He was not at all convinced and went into detail about all the things about the process that make him anxious. Then he narrated an incident:
“Once, when I entered the amount, there came a message that there was no money in my account. It was the most horrifying night of my life. I had gone to that ATM to take out money at 8 pm to pay someone Rs 10,000 because I knew that my account balance was over Rs 5 lakh, so when the machine said I didn’t even have Rs 10,000, I was frantic. I asked a passerby to help me. He also read it and said the same thing. Beating my head, I went back home, where my family advised me to lodge a police complaint. At the local police station, I was asked to write an application and return in the morning. They said they would file an FIR after visiting the bank with me. That whole night was a nightmare for me.
“I was at the police station at 7:30 am. They told me to come at 11, as before that inspector saab was not coming. I thought for a while and went to the bank and sat on the stairs. At 9:15, the security guard opened the door a little and I tried to enter but he stopped me and told me to wait for 15 minutes. By that point, I wanted to hit him.
“At 9:30 am, the door was opened and I entered the bank. A woman was sitting there, reading the paper, but when I tried to explain my problem to her, she just waved me away and told me to sit in the waiting area.
“After around 15-20 minutes, when I saw the manager entering his cabin, I went to him. When he also told me to wait outside, I was unable to control myself and started yelling at him. I told him, ‘You bloody scoundrels, you people are thieves! My account is here in this branch and you have stolen my money!’ I could see the fear on his face, and the man asked me about the problem. When I explained everything to him, he appeared shocked and asked me for my account number. I handed over my passbook to him, which had been updated With Rs 5,17,000 two days ago.
“He started his computer and was sweating despite the AC. He did something on the keyboard for a couple of minutes, after which he looked at me and said:
Idhar aayiye, Ye dekhiye, passbook mein jitna hai, utna paisa hai toh aapke account mein? Matha kharab ho gaya hai kya? Subah subah ganja pi ke aaye hain?
(Please come, look here, see the money which is updated in the passbook is the same here in the account. Have you gone mad? Are you high on weed first thing in the morning?)
“Yes, it was now his turn to say all that to me. However, when I explained the chain of events, he calmed down and asked his office boy to fetch two cups of tea. He then said,
ATMwa mein naa, paisawa khatam ho gaya hoga. ( the atm balance must have not been there, and thats why it would had told you about the No money thing)
The total population as per the Census data of 2011 is approx. 50 lakh! There are seven SBI ATMs in the city, and the total number of ATMs of all the banks are approx. 14 in the city. 30 percent of these stay non-operational with some cash not available or failure of links.
“So now do you understand why I’m scared of withdrawing money from ATMs? I now use them only for the cool temperature inside the kiosks.”
I was astonished with the whole conversation and puzzled by the incident I had just heard. It was now 4:55 and the guy who had been in the ATM was still enjoying the AC.
This was the trigger to get me into
Cashless Conversation - Series
Educating Indians the cashless way!
We have many new technologies being introduced on a daily basis. The latest on the block is Blockchain, just before that was UPI, and before that, wallets! But when we are in India and when we talk about making India cashless society, we have to take more than just the metros into consideration.
It starts with fear and ends too with fear, until next time!
Next time, I will come up with conversations which may enlighten you and I wish those conversations will give you the complete sense of how the common man of India is appreciating your technological successes and how they are going to accept or reject them, to build the “REAL” and on-ground cashless society.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)