Once upon a Time in a Queue – India (Part 45)

Transposing emblem by Sanjay Kumar Ray

In a televised address to the nation on November 8, 2016, India’s Prime Minister took the nation by surprise and announced the demonetization of the 1000 and 500 rupee notes in a major assault on black money, fake currency and corruption. The country needed several months to come to terms with the after-effects. Raju, the local street vendor had some Rs 500 notes that he had saved for the marriage of his daughter in distant Rajasthan. For the next few days his daily work started with standing in the bank queue to exchange demonetized notes before the deadline. Although this measure was taken with the good intention of curbing illegal money, it created uncertainty in the minds of the people from day one. The deadlines for exchanging notes were often changed or advanced, and new objectives like bringing more people into the banking system and turning India into a cashless economy were added to it. It took several days for Raju to get his notes exchanged.

Haridwar, India – Crossing

Beforehand, he got a unique identification card, called Aadhar (a 12-digit number that can be obtained by residents of India, based on their biometric and demographic data). It is no simple job to issue a billion people identity cards containing biometric data. Often, news broke out about the safety of citizen’s biometric data collected in this way, although Raju still does not fully comprehend what it means to have one’s own personal data compromised. And there is still controversy as to whether and how much of it will be used for identity purposes.

Jaipur, India – Connected

Although India has made tremendous progress in digital technology, many of its citizens are still illiterate, many do not have a place to keep the card, cannot read what is written there or do not know how to use it. Raju, being literate himself, has never used a computer. This card helped him prove his identity in a foreign city for the first time and receive government subsidies.

Vrindavan, India – Approaching

In the queue, Raju became friends with a 70-year-old pensioner named Mr. Sharma, who was there to exchange the Rs 1000 note he had saved for emergencies. Mr. Sharma can be called a member of the upwardly mobile middle class in the country. Although he has a laptop at home, Mr. Sharma is more at ease visiting the bank branch, but this visit had changed quite a bit with the long queues every day. The computer is not his cup of tea; while he cannot get used to holding a computer mouse in his hand, our Raju can hold a real mouse in his hand, but has never put his hands on a computer one. All these people are affected because they have no other way to exchange money after the demonetization drive started. They need real cash to pay the bills. And standing in a queue is the only way to beat uncertainty.

Hyderabad, India – In line

Technically, Raju’s income puts him below the poverty line (defined as earning $1.90 per day1) and is a card holder. Hence, it was indeed a matter of joy for him when the bank manager one day asked Raju to stand in another queue in order to open a bank account. The Indian government’s ambitious financial inclusion scheme called Jan Dhan Yojana brought 310 million Indians into the formal banking system by March 2018. According to the World Bank, the country still has 190 million adults without a bank account.2 Raju has to keep track of his new bank status now so that unscrupulous people do not misuse his account. During the demonetization drive there was news that some influential people were using the bank accounts of poor people to stash black money. His was a no-frills account, initially with a zero balance facility. Very soon, banks, overburdened with huge NPAs (Non-Performing Assets) accumulated due to large home development loan defaulters, started to penalize people for not maintaining a minimum balance in their accounts. After a huge outcry, banks were forced to reduce the penalty for not keeping the minimum balance. Some of the big names who defaulted were business tycoons, famous for organizing extravagant shows and appearing on page 3 of the newspapers and tabloids. Raju wonders: did these people ever stand in a queue! As for Raju, he does not mind standing in that queue to become included in the financial mainstream of the country. Why should he bother? He is already used to getting up very early in the morning with his fellow cohabitants in the cluster where he resides, to reach the very first queue of the day – to fetch water from the municipal outlets or water tanker, since the bore wells often refuse to discharge any water during the summer months. As a disciplined citizen, Raju bravely faces the uncertainties of falling levels in the water reservoirs and the disintegration of the environment around him due to the accumulation of waste and garbage. Only god is saving this country from disaster – Raju believes, and happily goes to stand in another queue.

New Delhi, India – Pumping water

Raju knows his friend Mr. Sharma was not without worries either. Consistently falling interest rates eat up pensioners own savings and more and more Mr. Sharmas receive less and less money from the bank.

As financial uncertainty had been reigning in the country for quite some time, news came from India’s unquiet borders, raising doubts about sustained peace among neighbors. Due to 24 hours of TV beaming into homes and offices, the news from the borders reaches people very fast, and nobody is sure what is happening on the border or why. India fought four wars with Pakistan, hundreds of soldiers died on both sides of the border. And in between these conflicts, India has been fighting proxy wars in the northern state of Kashmir. Soldiers in the regular army, paramilitary forces and local police are engaged in fierce battles to thwart attempts by terrorists and infiltrators in Kashmir. If long-standing disputes among nations in Europe and Asia can be mutually and peacefully settled, if two Vietnams and two Germanys can unite and ensure peace, then why can’t we have peace on our borders, Raju asks his friend Mr. Sharma. 70 years have passed since India gained independence from British rule. The present generation of political leaders was born after independence. The question is, when will somebody come out and say enough is enough; let peace be given a chance. It seems on a few occasions, both countries were almost on the point of reaching an agreement, but due to some reasons better known to politicians, the peace remained as elusive as ever – Mr. Sharma explains.

Jaipur, India – Possible

One queue Raju dreads is when one of his children falls ill and needs to visit the local government hospitals. The health care system in the country is mostly managed by the private sector. While medical tourism is booming in the country, the government hospitals are overburdened and doctors are overworked; patients wait in the thousands for an appointment or test. Remember, patients like Mr. Sharma are among those who can go to the capitals of the country and states for specialized treatment, but millions in the hinterland are at the mercy of the vagaries of uncertainty. Mr. Sharma has explained to Raju that we have to bear the fallout of development and higher GDP, while the glaciers are melting, rivers are drying up and getting polluted, the water level is going down, the increasing use of fossil fuels adds to the pollution, cities get choked, and people often become ill. The country is precariously dependent on the import of crude oil from countries in the conflict zones, and the country’s competition with the behemoth China is taking its toll in its search for a distinct Indian path of development.

Varanasi, India – To the river

Raju is better off economically now and no longer wishes to go back to his village, but is very concerned about the uncertain future of his children. At the moment, however, there is something else he needs to ensure. And so…

He rushes off to stand in the next queue.

Sanjay Kumar Ray

Notes

1. “Below the Poverty Line – India.” Wikipedia. Access: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Below_Poverty_Line_(India)

2. “19 crore Indian adults don’t have bank account: World Bank.” The Times of India. Access: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/19-crore-indian-adults-dont-have-bank-account-world-bank/articleshow/63833962.cms

Credits

Photo 1: New Delhi, India – In the alley – Palash Jain

Photo 2: Haridwar, India – Crossing – Swapnll Dwivedi

Photo 3: Jaipur, India – Connected – Annie Spratt

Photo 4: Vrindavan, India – Approaching – Fancycrave

Photo 5: Hyderabad, India – In line – Reddees

Photo 6: New Delhi, India – Pumping water – Patrick Beznoska

Photo 7: Jaipur, India – Possible – Annie Spratt

Photo 8: Varanasi, India – To the river – Thomas Young

Locations

Home: www.perypatetik.net

Social: www.facebook.com/Perypatetik

Cinemblem: Perypatetik youtube channel

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

Awdejuk, Pawel. Niepewność – The Road to Freedom – Poland. July 2018.

Bell, Sarah. The Bushfire Drive – Australia. July 2018.

Bondarenko, Evgeny. Twenty Plus Years. August 2018.

Cajoto, Christina. The Trajectory of Life – España. August 2018.

Castañeda, Martha Corzo. Worried Workers – Peru. February 2018.

Cooleridge, Tweeney. Uncertainty in the Abstract – Slovakia. March 2018.

Cordido, Veronica. The Crib of Uncertainty – Venezuela. January 2018.

Dastan, S.A. Uncertain Waters – Turkey. March 2019.

Deiana, Sara. The Dark Side of Perfection. September 2018.

Electra P. Aβεβαιότητα: The Enemy of Romantic Relationships – Greece. February 2018

Escandell, Andrea da Silva. Compromise – Uruguay. March 2018

Fischer, Kristin. Talking about Cancer – Germany. September 2018.

Gómez, Javier. Uncharted Bliss. October 2018

Goumiri, Abdennour. Uncertainty Is All There Is – France. February 2018.

Guerrero, Marilin. Crossing the Uncertain Path of Life – Cuba. February 2018.

Guillot, Iuliana. Preparing for Change – Romania. June 2018.

Huihao, Mu. Going the Uncertain Way. July 2017.

Julber, Lillian. What Will Tomorrow Bring? – Chile. July 2018.

Kanunova, Nigina. Metamporphoses in Modern Life. June 2018.

Kingsley, Anastasia. Expect the Unexpected. November 2018.

Konbaz, Rahaf. So You Say You Want A Revolution – Syria. March 2018.

Korneeva, Kate. One We – Russia. April 2018.

Krnceska, Sofija. No Name Country – Macedonia. May 2018.

Lassa, Verónica. The Old Eastern Books of Uncertainty – Argentina. May 2018.

Lozano, Gabriela. El cuchillo de la incertidumbre : Piercing Uncertainty – México. January 2018.

Pang, Lian. Now or Later? October 2018.

Phelps, Jade. Healing Journey Pulls Us Apart – America. June 2018.

Protić, Aleksandar. Environmental Uncertainty. August 2018.

Romano, Mavi. An Uncertain Democracy – Spain. April 2018

Ranaldo, Mary. Incerto or Flexible: Italia and UK. March 2018.

Çakır, Peren. Building a Future in Times of Uncertainty – Argentina and Turkey. May 2018.

Sanmartín, Virginia. Qué Será, Será – Spain. June 2018.

Samir, Ahmed. Uncertainty in Personal Life. January 2018.

Sekulić, Jelena. Nesigurnost of the Past, Present and Future – Serbia. June 2018.

Sem, Sebastião. Vagrant Poets. September 2018.

Sepi, Andreea. Uncertainties Galore – Germany. April 2018.

Sitorus, Rina. When Uncertainty Reaches the Land of Certainty – Indonesia and the Netherlands. May 2018.

Trojnar, Kamila. Ephemeral. October 2018.

Quintero, Jonay. The Fear of Not Knowing – España. January 2018.

Uberti, Alejandra Baccino. Adventure – Uruguay. September 2018.

Vuka. Lacking Uncertainty in Political Culture – Serbia. April 2018.

Wallis, Toni. Living for Today – South Africa. October 2018.

Younes, Ghadir. Economic Uncertainty in Life – Lebanon. Part 38.

Zakharova, Anastasiya. LGBQT – Russia. August 2018.

Forthcoming

Translators and writers from Armenia, Brazil, Jordan, Mexico, Germany/Spain, Bosnia, and then on to the Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes…

Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

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