This Article is From Dec 21, 2016

Inside What Would Be Assam's First Cashless Village

All payments in Chatonguri village in Assam's Morigaon district are being done through plastic money

Morigaon, Assam: 38-year-old Naresh Nath is among the first few rural villagers in Assam who have started to transact cashless. Like him at least 2,000 other villagers of Chatonguri in Assam's Morigaon district, 110 kilometres from Guwahati, have started to buy their essentials from their tiny village market digitally.

"When we used to go to Guwahati, we would to enter shopping malls and see the rich and educated people buying stuff and paying through cards. Now the same service is available to poor villagers like us in such a nondescript village," said Mr Nath to NDTV.

This village had also faced demonetisation blues - lack of change and people have to trance for hours to the nearest bank to deposit their old notes.

But Rupay cards have given them as new found sense of digital empowerment and embarked them on a journey to become be Assam's first cashless village by early 2017.

 "We have gone cashless, but this is not enough. I buy from retailer in Jagi road or even go to Guwahati to purchase items on retail. Those are towns and cities but retailers are yet to deal digitally and we face problem of lack of change" said local shopkeeper Hareshwar Das who has started to transact through e-wallets and point-of-sale terminals.

Amid the centre's push for digital transaction, 11 remote villages in India have been adopted by United Bank of India (UBI) under a pilot project to be turned into digital villages - one among them is Mr Nath's Chatonguri in flood ravaged Morigaon.

UBI has launched its Digi gram project that aims at expanding financial inclusion in remote areas and turn rural digital transaction into a reality.

"All bank branches are going to adopt villages like this one and carry out massive financial inclusion and digitally literacy programmes," said Shio Shankar Singh, Deputy General Manager (Northeast), UBI.

From this week, all payments in the village are being done through plastic money. Traders, vegetable and other small vendors and others providing goods and services in Chatonguri are using swipe machines for cashless transactions. Even online transaction through e-wallets can be made in this village that now also has internet connectivity. Assam government wants to become India's first fully cashless state and has declared that farmers buying seeds and fertilizer digitally will be awarded.

"Assam government has given lot of thrust ongoing cashless. We have a meeting yesterday with the chief minister and tomorrow we have yet another meeting, the process it being reviewed on a daily basis and we are now a major stake holder in digital India initiative," said Hemen Das, the Deputy Commissioner of Morigaon.

With people in Chatonguri village trading digitally, Assam has become the pivotal point of the beginning of new digital revolution in northeast India.