Exactly a month after Prime Minister Narendra Modi told India that Rs 500 and 1000 notes were going to be defunct, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced a lot of discounts on digital payments on a range of services. The thing is – Indian government wants to move towards a cashless society to reduce the menace of black money.
I had already mentioned in an earlier post that the notes that were made defunct accounted for over 80% of the currency which was in circulation. So for majority of Indians, myself included, it was a blow, even if the intensity varied from individual to individual. For those who have cards, it’s not that huge a problem, but there are still millions who don’t make digital transactions often (many have never). Which is why, the government is now working to promote cashless transactions and is even offering discounts on them.
One announcement that really had me thinking, was the discount offered on digital payments for monthly suburban railway tickets. The irony was – that my monthly railways pass expired three days back and I hadn’t renewed it yet, because I did not want to part with cash and I knew that the railways counters do not have swiping machines to accept card payments. And the lines outside ATMs to withdraw money are pretty long these days.
I took to twitter to express my view – the government wanted us to make digital payments at outlets that aren’t even equipped for them.
The discount is going to come into effect from January first, so maybe the government will equip railway counters with POS machines. But the question that still bothers you is that if the government is harping on the fact that it wants a cashless society, why did it not start taking steps towards it already. Then I wondered if I had tweeted too soon – what if stations did have card swiping machines and I was just being an idiot by assuming they still did not.
So I decided to find out. As soon as I was done with office, I went to the station and stood in the queue for the ticker counter to ask my question. When it was my turn, I asked the cashier, “Sir, do you accept card payments, I have a three month pass that has expired and I would like to pay by card.”
“No madam, but they will come soon,” he said. Well, that was encouraging. So I asked when they would arrive.
“No idea really”
“Have you guys been informed that card swiping machines will be provided here soon?”
“No no, we haven’t been told anything. We don’t know when it will happen,” he said.
So I asked him to give me just a one month pass as I didn’t want to part my dear dear cash and made my way to the train.
While this happened in Vadala (Mumbai), I decided to ask at the station where I would be getting off at – Kurla. Kurla is a pretty popular station, just like Dadar, which is the heart of Mumbai. Kurla station is so popular that many of us fear there will be a stampede some day and we will die. So I thought maybe they would have card swiping machines.
After I reached Kurla, I made my way to the ticket counter and this time there was a woman sitting and selling tickets. I asked her if they accepted card payments.
“No,” she said sternly.
“So, there are no machines?”
“No,” she said sternly again, with a killer face. It did look like she wanted to kill me. I didn’t dare ask her anything further, the ‘no’ was enough. (This is why I am not a reporter, it involves communication with nasty humans)
So I started walking out of the station to catch an auto home. And thought about how I was not wrong about our stations being very simply not even equipped to transact digital payments. Or my life would have been easier three days ago when my pass expired and I wouldn’t have to buy single tickets each time. At least Arun Jaitley’s announcement made me curious enough to wait in line and get a monthly pass. 30 more days of no buying tickets – yay!
**Edit – I found out that one can renew their pass online, but hey, everybody does not have a smartphone.