But why aren’t we cashless yet?

[I run the risk of coming across as cynical, pessimistic and negative by this post – I’ve been accused of being each of the three in three separate circumstances by three different people. So kindly send better adjectives my way].

I consider myself privileged to have been alive the day India decided to go cashless (November 8, 2016). With no TV set in my room, I only knew when my roommate arrived around 9:30pm exultant and jumping “I’M SO HAPPY NOW ALL MY IAS UNCLES ARE GOING TO JAIL”.

If you think this is going to be yet another article slamming the demonetisation-drama-debacle (come on, it came in a package), then no. Too late for that. And I know even the people that only scroll down their FB feed had enough of it. The trolls felt distasteful after a while, probably on account of mocking a mockery that was playing out in real life. I mean it’s all funny until you run out of money yourself.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for less-cash economies. But if you’re anything remotely Indian or have really visited this place (and not just prosperous pockets of it), you’d know we’re lightyears away from a cashless economy, SO WHO WERE WE KIDDING? (Who was kidding who might have been a better question but I hope all questions have been appeased by now).

Casual fun fact about me: My stomach can’t digest beef. Now that casual lynching’s been crossed out, read on knowing that the author’s still alive.

Anyhow, this post is to share MY FAVORITE NEWS ARTICLE from the past one year. I guess it took a while to make it to the blog, mostly because there were trolls, satire and what-not being churned out everyday on the topic, and I generally dislike commotion.
I copypasted in case you didn’t want to left-click on the link. It happened in Delhi.

‘Digital’ village asks what’s netbanking – The Hindu (09/02/2017)


‘Digital’ village asks what’s netbanking

DE09_DIGITAL_MAIN

Around 10 days ago, a team of Delhi government officials handed over two PoS (point of sale) machines to kirana (grocery) store owners Surat Singh and Ramesh Kumar, both residents of Surakhpur village in Najafgarh, on the Delhi-Haryana border.
The officials taught the two how to use the machines. On Wednesday, when The Hindu visited the village, where the front walls of most houses are plastered with cow dung cakes, it found Mr. Singh’s machine “safely” locked inside a drawer in the shop. Mr. Singh (60), who runs the store his wife Raj Kor, said, “I run a small shop. People come here to buy basic items and the bill amount is usually low. For other necessities they go to ‘Delhi’.”

‘Who will bear cost?’

He said initially some curious customers tried to use the machine, but now there were hardly any requests for online payments. Mr. Singh does not know who will pay the Internet charges for the machine whose plastic cover is still intact. Also, the Internet connectivity is poor in Surakhpur. “Most of the time the server is down,” he said.

The approximate population of Surakhpur is 1,500 and the nearest bank and ATM are around 3 km away in Mitraon village. This effort to promote cashless transactions in Surakhpur started on December 26, when Sub-Divisional Magistrate Anjali Sehrawat, along with her team, inspected the area. A camp was set up and people were asked to get their Aadhaar cards made and fill up forms for opening bank accounts. “The purpose was to ensure that in each household at least one person has a bank account. Surakhpur was chosen for this pilot project due to its less population,” said Ms. Sehrawat.

Two workshops

The officials held two workshops at the chaupal, a meeting place for the elders, and taught the villagers about netbanking and e-wallets. LED screens were installed for the demonstration. After providing the PoS machines and opening bank accounts, the project was over.

On Tuesday, the Delhi government officially declared Surakhpur as the first village in Delhi to be “fully digital payment enabled”. But most residents here, particularly the women, are clueless about the project.

The literacy rate in the village is low and not everyone uses a smartphone. Meenakshi, a 22-year-old mother of two, said she had never been to a bank. “I don’t think any woman here knows how to withdraw money from ATM, leave alone making payments through phone.”

Like Meenakshi, most of the women The Hindu spoke to said they did not have bank accounts or smartphones.

Ajit Singh, a retired central government employee, was surprised over the announcement.

“How can they declare our village cashless or digital when the work hasn’t even started,” he said.

Water woes

Another resident, Amit Kumar, said he doesn’t know if Surakhpur is a “cashless” village, but it is definitely a “waterless village”. The residents still rely on water tankers despite a pipeline being recently laid. The villagers said the piped water is contaminated.

Some residents even contested the claim that each household has a bank account holder. A resident, who didn’t wish to be named, even wrote to the Prime Minister Office on January 16 after the bank in Mitraon village refused to open the accounts of 19 residents whose documents weren’t in order.

Even Ms. Sehrawat accepted that there was still a lot of work to be done in the project. She clarified that Surakhpur is not a “cashless village” as reported by the media. “The literacy rate is poor and network connectivity is low. Our main aim was to provide infrastructure, which we have. Now it is up to the people to make payments digitally,” she said.


I do not know if officials followed a target-based approach on attaining ‘digital villages’, but after all we’re the nation of Ramanujam and Aryabhatta and an array of astonishingly great GDP figures. Surely if nothing else we should be able to produce good numbers, no? A little twisting here, a little tweaking there and we’re good to go.

Nine percent of rural India had access to mobile internet in early 2016. That’s a single-digit-number. It may not seem shocking, but it would’ve had I asked you to guess the figure first. For non-Indians who wonder why this is relevant, seventy percent of our population resides in the villages.

Before we bash or hail decisions, and more so before taking decisions, it’s good to put some perspective in place. But whether it’s reasonable to expect that in a nation of political gimmicks is debatable.

PS : (For the purpose of closure) My roommate’s mom clarified that all her uncles’ cash was invested in real estate, they caught all the non-uncles in the country though I think.

 

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How I Made It To the IAS

Disclaimer : This is a grossly misleading account of how I, a non-existent guy, made it to a non-existent service. Kindly do not take it to heart or mind or soul. More importantly, do not hunt me down.

This article is a standalone piece on my path to IAS aka Indian Acronyms Service, a new pseudo- All India Service created and tailored to suit the needs of the present government. If you came here looking for the Indian Administrative Service as I’m sure most of you did, I have to tell you this here is THE NEW bomb right now.

Did you really think the catchy acronymic names of government schemes with no-nonsense fullforms grew on trees (GoT)? It is a result of our Pact (Persistent And unprecedented Creative Talent) and Stuff (Sunny Times Under Football & Fun) and Shit (Shit Has no Ixpansion Though), and not putting together random words as many think it to be.

So here goes.

Getting into IAS is a 3 step process, a lot like the all India services, but not really.

STAGE 1 : The Preliminary Test

Although the competition isn’t as high as for the Civil Service test, I’m sure once this article is out, the number of job applicants will increase by tenfold if not more. The syllabus is pretty much the same which is everything under the sun. This is to ensure that even if somebody (more often than not) mistakes us to be an officer from the Administrative Service, which we usually tend to not rectify, we should be a convincing one at the least.

The exam itself is 50% LUCK, 50% Hardwork and 50% Qualifying Math which I’m naturally good at. I’d say another 25% part is played by political correctness.

For eg: What is SCAM?

(a) Save Country from Amit shah and Modi
(b) SP, Congress, Akhilesh and Mayawati
(c) Both (a) & (b)
(d) I support Jayalalithaa

Like I mentioned, this is not really an all India service to be apolitical.

I owe a lot of my success to Luck (Look Up online in Case of Konanders). For those that don’t know, it’s an app allowed in the exam hall, accessible only to those who voted Yes when MyGov asked “Do you support demonetisation?”

STAGE 2 : The Mains exam (written)

Pro-tip: Squeeze in at least one acronym in every sentence possible, the more it annoys the reader the better. Flaunt your creativity, even if you have none.

This is where they test your skills in balanced articulation, neutered criticism, etc (Exemplary Tailwagging to Central policies). Diplomacy here is key (Kickass Excellence in Your test). Okay I’ll stop that shit.

STAGE 3 : The Personal Interview

This has to be the toughest stage, what with the mental pressure et al (Every Two minutes At the Loo). Present in my interview board was who I will call MPD or Mere Pyare Deshvasiyon (not in the least cos naming him might get me in trouble)’s hologram.

I fainted out of sheer awe at the mere sight of it him.

“Would you like some nariyal juice?” a behind-the-scenes guy ran to me and asked.

“You mean nariyal PAANI, yes please,” I croaked. I knew the panel was impressed. Your degree of political correctness has to be breath-taking, even when your own breath has taken off.

“So tell us, since you fainted et al, why do you admire MPD?”

“Because he is a man with a big heart, sir.”

“Oh you have seen his MRI Scans?”

“Well what do you think the 56 inch chest houses then? Aloo gobi? It’s his BIG heart. I’m sorry to say (SOS), but you sound anti-national (ANAL).” The rest of the panel turned to him, fuming. I thought my job was done.

“Here’s my Adhar, and here’s my screensaver” – it was a cow Gomaatha, “I have a Jio Sim and I only use PayTM.” “Tch tch, sorry we misunderstood”.

“Well. Back to you. What do you think of India’s demographic dividend and our rising population?”

“Sir, when the Army officers and BSF jawans are working day and night at Siachen so that the country sleeps peacefully at night, I do believe people should just sleep peacefully at night, instead of contributing their share to the population. It is the least we could do”.

“Actually…,” the HR member cut in.

SHIT, I knew there had been a technical glitch. Wasn’t India’s population actually stabilizing? I’d fallen into their pit.

“… you do know that babies can be made during the daytime (DAD)?” Well thank god.

“Sir, perhaps if we could make a policy to empower moral policing groups in the context of PvtDA, as it already is legalized in case of PDA, that’s when India would really shine, and that is how India will become digital.”

I knew I was almost there. The cherry on top coming up.

“Or we could play the National Anthem in loudspeakers in every locality every few hours, that’ll terrify them out of their wits, and beds.”

At this, the 56-inch torso’ed hologram got up on his legs, and said, “YOU. YOU will join my Kitchen Cabinet on Monday.”

“But sir, I don’t have a degree in Political Science, I can hardly cook.”

“I’m sure we can do something about that,” said the HR guy. He was already on the phone  – “Yes it’s me again, we’ll need another couple of certificates.”


Like I said, the interview is a little unconventional, but if you get through, you’re a quasi-public servant/IAS officer. You also get a Jio subscription for lifetime complementary.

I soon got married to a rich businessman’s daughter on account of my job title *wink*. She almost kicked me out when she found  what the ‘A’ stood for. Her mother was about to hurl at me my beloved miniature figurine of UN-adjudged ‘The Most Charming PM in The World’ (kuch bhi) when I remembered and yelled, “The car! I still get the car! With the red beacon!”

“OH! Well why didn’t you say so in the first place, son? Come on in,” my mother-in-law beckoned.

Indian parents.

 

PS : This was written after I learnt what PRASAD stands for. I mean seriously.