A Year Later, Assam's First 'Cashless Village' Still To Embrace Digitalisation

Of the 1,000 new ATM cards issued to villages here, more than 200 are yet to be activated.

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Villagers in Chatonguri have been forced to rely on cash for buying goods.

Guwahati:  Last year, Chatonguri village in Morigaon district of Assam made headlines when it became one of the first villages to witness cashless transactions. 

A year later, the village, situated about 110 kilometres from state capital Guwahati, has still not managed to embrace digitalisation.

"Cashless transaction was done for only four months. Internet connectivity started to become poor and majority of the new ATMs cards in our village are yet to be active. As a result, cashless transactions have become almost nil," Hareshwar Das told NDTV. Mr Das, 36, was among the first few traders in rural Assam who switched to digital transaction.

Soon after demonetisation was announced on November 8, 2016, all the banks started to adopt villages across the country to turn them to digital villages. Chatonguri was among the 11 remote villages in India to be adopted by the United Bank of India (UBI) under a pilot project-Digital gram- to turn it into a digital village.

But constant power outage and lack of ATMs proved that the switch to cashless transactions was still a distant dream for the villagers.

Of the 1,000 new ATM cards issued to villages here, more than 200 are yet to be activated. "UBI should have done awareness campaign here in the village about cashless payment to popularise it but they never did it," Jitumani Das, a local Villager, from Chatonguri added. 

The customer service points that were seen as pivotal to promoting digital transaction, are themselves struggling. 

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"For running customer service points for digital transaction you also need uninterrupted power supply which is no present, power cuts are frequent and also the government had promised to give a WiFi router tower but still we are awaiting it," claimed Nayan Medhi, who runs the UBI's CSP at Chatonguri. 

Local MP Rajen Gohain, who is also a union minister, admits to the problem. "I am aware of the problems of the cashless viable and had asked BSNL to put a Internet tower. They had told me that they would do it,  I will ask once again" Mr Gohain told NDTV.

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