- Ban on Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes hits farmers hard
- Farmers need money to plant winter crops
- Farmers lining up at banks, but unable to get cash
By 9 am, the line outside a bank in Bundelkhand in central Uttar Pradesh is staggering. Bihari Das is exhausted. He walked ten kilometres to get to this bank - for the fourth day in a row. "It's incredibly frustrating for me. I can't afford to do this each day, but I have to," said the 65-year-old farmer. Each time he has made his exacting journey to the bank, the cash has run out before he could get his turn.
What he is desperate for is 10,000 rupees so he can buy fertilizer needed for the crops he has just planted in his village. For the first time in years, Bundelkhand, full of small farms, received, for the most part, a good monsoon. Bihari Das moved quickly, counting on a reprieve from the drought that has seared the region.
And then the government decided to outlaw 500 and 1,000 rupee notes. The sudden shortage of currency means farmers are struggling to get seeds and fertilizer needed to sow the winter crop. Others have invested already in ploughing their land, prepping it for seeding - and cannot afford delays now in moving ahead.
At 10 am, there are about 400 people waiting with Bihari Das, most of them poor farmers from nearby villages. Yesterday, the government said farmers can withdraw up to Rs 25,000 a week against crop loans.
Minutes later, the fears prove warranted. Farmers are informed that there are no notes to hand out. Vikrant Dubey, the lead cashier at the bank, says he's trying to arrange for more money to be brought in. "I am doing 13 hours shifts every day. I am trying my best but this shortage of cash - what can we do?" he asks.
By noon, consignment of money arrived. Mr Dubey said he could not reveal how much cash was brought in, but said Rs 2,000 would be given to each person - till the notes run out. Farmers waiting for their share say it will be impossible to use the single 2,000-rupee note that they are receiving. Who will offer us change for this, they ask.
A little before 1 pm, Bihari Das got his 2,000 rupee note. "I needed Rs 10,000," he said. "With this, I can buy diesel for my water pump. But what about fertilizer?" he said. "I don't have the courage to return tomorrow for more," he said. "Not for at least another four days."
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