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4

Over the last few days, I've had many discussions with various people about going cashless. So far, I haven't met anyone who applied for internet access if they didn't already have or installed a payment app if they didn't already have, contrary to reports in media (which may possibly be largely limited to the metros). Here are some reasons I found out.

Ours is an area that would classify as a town though it has now been clubbed with several other towns into a city. It is close to Mumbai and a lot of people who work in Mumbai but can't afford to live there live here. About half the population is lower middle class and tenants in the properties of people in Mumbai who have purchased flats here as an investment - me too. There are also several people who are quite poor and live in slums and old buildings in small cramped quarters. In other words, there are few people who'd qualify as rich in this area or even well off enough to not care about monthly budgets - perhaps some of the more prosperous shop owners. Our building is probably among the most "posh" in this area and there are maybe 6 cars parked in the compound with a few hundred flats, and 3 of those are cabs.

Note: I am neither for, nor against the use of cashless transactions. It is a useful method for those willing to spend that little bit extra for convenience. It is invaluable for doing online payments and a handy record of spending in bank account doesn't hurt for those, like me, who cannot remember where they spend money five minutes later. However, forcing people to go cashless is extremely unwise, in my view. Regardless, this is merely a disclosure of where I stand and the below are not my views. 

Domestic workers

I spoke with several of these. My regular maid usually gets paid into her bank. Another I hired to help her out financially takes cash. Apart from these two, I spoke with about 4-5 others. Only one of them who was previously getting paid in cash is getting paid by cheque this time (she will be withdrawing the money for use, not spending cashless). Among the others, reasons varied. They found the bank intimidating and cash easy and familiar - is a common sentiment. All but one of the others didn't have their own bank accounts and did not want to deposit their income into the accounts of their husbands or other family members. The remaining one had a bank account in her village, and when she applied for a new cheque book, it got delivered to her village address, so she wants cash till she has a way to withdraw money. Only my maid has a smart phone that is compatible with an app (she didn't buy it, she is using my old one) and she uses it without an internet connection. The phone automatically connects to the WiFi when she comes into range, but she has never shown any interest in using the internet and is reluctant to do it now. In any case, I would never advise her to begin her introduction to the internet with a high stakes thing like payments.

Vegetable vendors

I've spoken with about a dozen of these. Most of them didn't know about apps. I informed them. They don't think their transactions are large enough to afford commissions to receive money on. Additionally, there aren't people buying. No one seems to have asked them if they will accept an app payment, so they don't think there is any point in using it unless people in the area adopt it.

Grocers

Business is very low for grocers, but none of them showed any interest. When people have money, groceries are a priority, and they usually offer credit to regular buyers at such times, so they don't think an app will add any business for them. Like the vegetable vendors, no one has offered to pay them by app so far.

Car mechanic

I spoke with one. Business is down enough to be as good as zero. No work other than emergencies like punctures is happening. No one has offered to pay him by app before, but he would consider it if there promises to be a good amount of business. We speculated on the possibility of vehicle owners being likely to own phones that could install such apps and perhaps trying to pay that way if he put up a board, but he didn't sound anywhere like he was headed for a download. He would have to upgrade his own phone first - it is not a smartphone. Another reason he was reluctant is that he would likely have completed the work first and then if the payment did not happen, he could suffer a loss. I explained that there was very little chance of that happening, but it is unfamiliar tech and he is not internet savvy and I couldn't with any sense of ethics recommend it beyond discussing it as a possibility for the same reasons as my maid - first experience of the internet being payments is asking for trouble.

Garments shop

I spoke with two. Both had near zero business and were very interested in the app. They had smartphones and had even experimentally downloaded after seeing all the ads. However, the problem is that no one is coming to their shops at all. Whether paying with cash or cashless. There are no customers at all.

Housewives

I spoke with several asking if they had considered buying using an app. All of them had some money (one of them having borrowed from me). All of them had priorities and were managing those priorities in the cash they had, which admittedly is very little. None of them were interested in using an app to buy anything. They would rather cut corners and buy when they had the money. Some were making do with dal and pulses and onions and potatoes they could get on credit from the grocer and skipping buying vegetables when they didn't have money, but they weren't interested in installing an app so they could buy clothes - for example.

I am also a stay at home mom, but I am cashless enabled, so to say, so writing my experience separately, because it is different from theirs. I follow news rapidly, and anticipated the problems with cash that would happen, so within the first few days, I had my money converted locally - without paying a single rupee as commission - in medical shops and such. I further withdrew money from ATMs at the crack of dawn to find smaller queues, knowing that people would be needing to borrow as well as my second maid would need a salary. I have cash. There is a Reliance Fresh where I can swipe my card, but I have not used any cashless payment at all since demonetisation, because I believe those unable to accept cashless methods are really suffering for business, so I'd rather spend in their shops.

People with jobs in offices

Most of these in our building are male, but there are a few women too. They mostly seem more inclined to save mone rather than use cards or apps. Most of them have cards. Most of them use cards to withdraw money from ATMs as possible. None of them use cards for anything except withdrawing money from ATMs, though they are aware, and one of them had used cards to make payments before and knows how to do it.

I didn't find any credit card users other than myself in our building and among people I spoke with. One woman whose husband works abroad has an add on card to his credit card for emergencies, but she has never used it. She is also the one who has used a debit card for purchases before.

With every crisis comes a plague of those profiting from it. Cyclone Phailin is devastating in its proportions and the damage it leaves behind. It is important to channel your aid through reliable organizations so that it reaches people on the ground rather than getting siphoned off or scammed.

I will confirm and update more sources as they announce their appeals. Scroll down for list of suggested necessities to send.

Here are several ways you can help that are fairly trustworthy. Include your name and address if you want IT exemption.

  1. The Prime Minister's national relief fund. If you have netbanking, you ought to be able to use it to securely donate to PMNRF - Prime Minister's National Relief Fund. Many banks will offer links to donate funds for crisis relief after natural disasters like the Cyclone Phailin later. Or you can snail mail a cheque or demand draft in the name of "Prime Minister's National Relief Fund" and send to Prime Minister's Office, South Block, New Delhi - 110011
  2. Chief Minister's Relief Fund Andhra Pradesh: You can Donate Online. Here are the instructions for doing wire/telegraphic transfers of your donations from outside India. The account details for the wire transfers should also work for depositing cheques - HDFC Bank Ltd, MUMBAI. Acct no : 0212320004718. Account name : The Chief Minister Relief Fund , Govt of AP.
  3. Chief Minister's Relief Fund for Odisha: Donate to “CHIEF MINISTER’S RELIEF FUND, ORISSA” (CMRF) by CHEQUE/DEMAND DRAFT payable at Bhubaneswar. All contributions to ORISSA CMRF may be sent to Joint Secretary to Government, GA (CMRF) Department, Orissa Secretariat, Bhubaneswar- 751001,Orissa. Donors can also remit through their bank directly to SB A/C No.10566116417 of State Bank of India, Forest Park Branch, Bhubaneswar, Orissa. They also have an online page for donations, which isn't working. I'll update when they fix it.
  4. Goonj.org is a website that works for rescue and relief after natural disasters. They accept aid in the form of money, clothing as well as other material contributions that can be put to good use by survivors. They have an extensive network where you can drop material contributions for relief at a location convenient to you and both Indians and foreigners can also donate online. You can volunteer for them where you live and organize collections of donations to facilitate greater aid. If you can organize truckloads from your locality, they will pick them up.
  5. Doctors For You run medical camps after disasters. Yes Bank A/C No: 000190300000030 Branch: Yes Bank, Worli branch, Mumbai IFSC Code: YESB0000001

Doctors For You do good work, and you should plan on donating to them, but not just yet. Let them announce their aid and make appeals first.

Here are some suggested items for donating:

  • Tarpaulin sheets, plastic sheets and other waterproof shelter materials. This is a biggie. Many homes are destroyed, even more have roofs blown off that will need to be covered immediately to protect inside of house from decaying in the rain as well.
  • Food: Vast quantities of dry snacks that can be distributed to those in shelters.
  • Essential medicines, first aid supplies, sanitary napkins.
  • MILK powder. Loads of kids living in shelters will need milk.
  • I would say clothes, but clothes are the most common gift and most abused. Give only practical clothes that rural people will wear daily and give clothes that are in GOOD CONDITION. There is no point spending money on transporting worn down or otherwise unwearable clothes that far, at cost that could be spent on things that can be used.
  • Blankets, bedsheets, karrimats/chatais/groundsheets.
  • Utensils - think basic, versatile pots, pans, plates, glasses, laddles and such. This is no place for the forgotten crockery from your wedding. Larger ones will be better than tiny ones. Think 2 liter volume and above for pots.
  • Anything else that is useful and practical. Make suggestions in comments, and I can put these up here. Check the Goonj website and aid requests on social media. There may be updates on specific needs.

Start sending! Help to rehabilitate lakhs of people will be needed rapidly now.

1

It seems the Haryana government's compensation for failed crops is too absurd to believe, yet true. Farmers have reported getting a few rupees as compensation for the failed crop of a season.

The government appears to provide its own reasoning, but regardless of how the tiny numbers came to be, it is abundantly clear that they cannot realistically compensate for the loss and become a cruel taunt instead of support.

It is pathetic that an absurdly inadequate provision gets followed so blindly that all through the process no one realizes the absurdity of it till the point the cheque actually reaches the farmer who suffered the loss like a slap.

Haryana chief minister's political advisor Prof Virender had claimed on Friday that it had given 33 paisa extra to a farmer, Tekchand, who got a cheque of Rs 3 as compensation for not being able to cultivate his land after waterlogging in the fields. "Tekchand has a share of 1/1260 in (in one acre). His compensation works out to be Rs 2.77, but he has been given a cheque for Rs 3," Virender had claimed.

Tekchand could not explain the technicalities. But his brother, Mahesh, 33, who also got a cheque of Rs 3 for the same piece of land, alleged that the government did not compensate them adequately. "Twelve share-holders of around one acre land (six kanals) got around Rs 60 as compensation, in the range of cheques of Rs 3 to 4," he explained. "I will meet the revenue official tomorrow to ask on what basis they had calculated such a less amount as compensation for our land," the farmer added.

Tekchand's cousin, Sheel Kumar said due to waterlogging, following heavy rains, his wheat crop in two acres got damaged in 2011. "Now the government has given a cheque of just Rs 250 to me as compensation," he said. Explaining the logic behind giving a cheque of Rs 2 to a farmer Satnarayan, CM's political adviser had stated, "The share of Satnarayan, a resident of village Godhri (Jhajjar), is 1 out of 1,680 shares in an acre of land and the compensation at the rate of Rs 3,500 per acre was worked out to be Rs 2.08 for him."

There seems to be some massive records mismatch here. 1680 shares in an acre of land? An acre is 43,560 square feet. That would be almost 26 square feet of land per head. For an idea, that would be slightly bigger than a door. The government appears to believe that people owned land like this? Also, how are people under the belief that they were 12 share-holders to an acre of land? Where are the remaining 1662 people the government seems to see and how much did they get paid?

Further investigation ought to happen.

33

I have been having trouble with Airtelfor a long time, since I got suddenly overbilled out of the blue and from a normal bill of about Rs.350/- I got a bill of more than Rs.9,000/- There had been no change in my usage.

I raised the alarm when I got an SMS warning that the bill had gone over Rs.6,000/- and it still kept rising.

To compound that, complaints I made got terminated arbitrarily saying that I didn't answer my phone. Strangely, all their calls asking me to pay get answered just fine. Why would I do that?

Then, Airtel conned me out of Rs.2,500/- in the name of a settlement, which they recorded as a part payment. They had refused to give a settlement letter at that time, saying it was normal policy.

I discovered this, when the day my number was supposed to start working again came and went and I called to find out.

Then the menacing phone calls from Airtel's legal department started. Relentless serial calls asking for money. To the extent where I filed a complaint, and the girl called me to taunt me and threaten me further because I filed a complaint.

I followed up with the police station, and the calls stopped.

They have started again. Again it is the legal department. I explained the paroblem, and they sent me a "settlement email" from theglobalconsultants@gmail.com which legal process will accept this as official Airtel communication?

They want me to pay on the basis of this. This time, they claim it will really be settlement.

Dear Madam,

This is with reference to your A/C no 109-100362836 for mobile no 9892469127.

We would like to inform you that your above mention account b has an Outstanding of  Rs. 6738.85/- will have NIL balance if you pay a sum of Rs. 4700/- (Four Thousand Seven Hundred Only/-) after adjusting Deposit of Rs. 0/- in one monthly installment (s) vide Cheque/Cash/pay order payable in favor of BhartiAirtel Ltd.

In process of settlement if your banker returns any of your cheque (s), the above settlement stands null & void and you would be liable to pay the entire outstanding as on date.

Please acknowledge this letter as a token of acceptance on or before 27th Sep 2011 failing with this will be treated as null & void.

Thanking You

Rima Shetty (Advocate)

So we have here an advocate who claims to be consultant, or goons who are faking both the "advocate" and "consultant". Seeing as how there is no official website, phone number or anything at all indicating this is a legal entity.

Which, essentially is no different from when they conned me out of the earlier payment - this is not communication from Airtel. Last time, they had refused, and said that it was not procedure to give settlements officially, then took money and gave a receipt that said it is not valid for settlements.

This time, they are offering a letter, but not from Airtel.

And the accompanying calls are threatening too. Last time, they threatened to access my call records and call all the people I had called to demand my payment. This time, they are speaking of my relatives paying.

The woman asked me if I was a beggar, and then told me I was a beggar, and described some dargah somewhere where people like me can get money and to go there and earn money and pay them, etc.

I live tweeted some of this shit.

You know the dargah,. go there, beg money, pay your bill. Or your relatives will have to pay. ~ Airtel "legal" department. Sneha Patil
Vidyut
September 28, 2011
You will get calls, that you will wish you had paid. You haven't seen how we recover money. ~ Airtel "legal" department. Sneha Patil
Vidyut
September 28, 2011
Make all the police complaints you want, you can't do anything to us. Pay up. I am sending my man ~ Airtel "legal" department.
Vidyut
September 28, 2011
If you don't pay, all your relatives will have to pay. Have you left them all? Are you a beggar? Go to beg and pay. ~ Airtel "legal" dept
Vidyut
September 28, 2011
"The Global Consultants" - theglobalconsultants@gmail.com THIS is Airtel's legal dept? "Advocate Reema Shetty" sent email.
Vidyut
September 28, 2011
@ShivAroor Kidding you not. Live tweeting while on phone @airtel_in
Vidyut
September 28, 2011
43473913 is the number from where I am getting the calls. - Airtel's "legal" department.
Vidyut
September 28, 2011
The Airtel Saga http://bit.ly/qIf2nA http://bit.ly/rgbQPz http://bit.ly/nNxqpN http://bit.ly/mZ6G0g
Vidyut
September 28, 2011
The only sorrow is that I didn't record that phone call, because I couldn't figure out how. Tweets can't convey that taunting tone.
Vidyut
September 28, 2011
Now that my personal problems seem to have paused a bit, I suppose I should take time out and do the consumer court thing.
Vidyut
September 28, 2011
But really, it isn't only about me and one bill or settlement, but the "system" of threatening people and selling their personal information
Vidyut
September 28, 2011
Who gives airtel the right to sell my outstanding to some third party goon for extortion? Is not a violation of my information?
Vidyut
September 28, 2011

As usual, @airtel_presence has replied that they are looking into the matter. I doubt if the goons care about them.

On the other hand, now that I am back home for however long, I can do the consumer courts thing.

The way I see it, the original bill being inflated, and complaints disregarded was one part of it. Then, my information being sold to a third party - this is not my agreement with Airtel. And then, the criminal harassment and threats to people around me.

Sure, they may not act on them, but how do I know? How do I know that they will not harm me or my family? Who is responsible if elderly relatives get health problems if faced with such threats?