Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Nabarangpur, Jan 10:
Union Government’s demonetisation drive has unleashed a cashless mode of transaction of the ‘other kind’ in tribal dominated Nabarangpur district of Odisha where people have been forced to adopt to centuries-old barter system owing to a severe cash-crunch.
Far away from banks and access to ATMs, the tribals living in the hilly terrain of the backward district have been forced to exchange goods to make ends meet.
Even though the crop yields have been better than the previous year, farmers have not been able to sell their produce as rumours and panic over demonetisation continue to grip the barely-educated populace that form the majority in the district.
“I went to the market to buy supplies but the merchants refused to accept our money. I had few Rs 500 and Rs 1000 bills with me that my husband had brought us from his work. They are no good anymore. I don’t know what else to do apart from exchanging my crop for other necessary items,” said Sika Lohri, who confessed that she neither has a bank account nor has visited a bank ever.
The condition and affordability of essential services including healthcare are even worse.
“What choice do we have? People keep saying different things about the money. We hear, Modi Government says it is illegal to use Rs 500, Rs 1000 bills. Now, where do we bring the money for treatment? We will dispose the corpse if the patient dies,” said Lada Sikri, a young man who has a family member under treatment.
The district administration, on the other hand, expressed helplessness.
“The yields have been good. There, however, is a severe cash crunch in here. The low level of awareness among the tribals doesn’t help either. Without proper know-how of how to exchange the old bills, they have endured losses and have not been able to sell their produce. That has forced them to adopt to barter system and exchange goods,” said a district administration official who did not wish to be named.