just completed my research on the rural-urban migration of women. I myself am a migrant, albeit an urban-rural migrant moving from Chennai to a small town in Kerala with marriage. The whole debate on demonetisation and its effects sent my thoughts whirling back 30 years ago to our annual visits to the little village of my parents. Inevitably, every activity in the village hinged on farming. Paper money was never much in demand in those days.
In my mother's home, everything necessary for our daily consumption was produced at their farm itself. Mangoes, bananas, coconuts, jackfruit, paddy, tapioca, yam, beans, eggs, chicken, cashew nut, milk, pepper, etc., were available free of cost and in huge quantities. All the processed food like rice powder and Kerala-special snacks that line the shelves of bakeries and supermarkets today, were painstakingly prepared at home.
There were only a few things that my grandpa used to purchase from Velu chettan's kada (shop): lentils, potatoes, tomatoes, cola and jaggery. The other main shopping was from one or two shops in the nearest town, which supplied the material for men’s shirts and the chatta (blouse), mundu and shawl for women of our community. Very little paper money was required for these purposes.
The economy was literally a cashless economy. I remember my grandpa used to walk miles to visit relatives/friends. There were very few buses or other automobiles in those days. It made me wonder how that little economy was almost throttled due to demonetisation recently. It simply bears testimony to the fact that the sweeping changes ushered in by liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation are here to stay. The crass consumerism, higher incomes and standard of living of the average individual have made him or her a slave to the market. What is truly amazing is that all this has occurred within a relatively short span of 20 years.
Undoubtedly, all of us are beneficiaries of a growing economy but we are at a crucial crossroads where the development vs growth paradox is constantly being debated. Discourses on adulterated food and their adverse impact on the health of people in recent years have cornered headlines and prime-time discussions in the media. All these seem to point to a mindset that is a cross between idealism and pragmatism. Che Guevara and Margaret Thatcher are at odds in their hearts.
I am now a proud cashless customer who uses debit cards, cheques, e-wallets and other such e-savvy techniques for payments and transfers. There is only one little hitch in this whole exercise. When the cash crunch set in, I, like every other citizen of India learned to live with the little I had. Now, however, with a whole lot of cashless options before me, I just purchase and purchase…. without realising that at that rate it could make me literally cashless.
Thanks again to capitalism!