India’s Currency Ban in Photos

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Demonetisation has hit small business owners and street vendors, with many losing their daily income. A photo story on notebandi.

While the credit-carded elite cheer the government’s move to ban Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes, the lives of small-business owners and daily wage workers were thrown into disarray.

Here are stories of people, many of whom are now forced to go without income.

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(Image: 7MB) Chinni wants to go back to her village. But the buses won’t accept her money

On Wednesday, Chinni waited with a helpless expression. Seeing that she had only a Rs. 500 note, the conductor made her get off the bus. She desperately needs to get to her village in Bhuavangiri – 50 km from the city of Hyderabad. This 500 rupee note is all she has.

I don’t have any change, and nobody is giving me any. How will I get out of here? I don’t know how to run or use a bank account. I just want to go to my village.

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(Image: 7MB) Ailayya needs the new notes soon, to buy a cement drill

Ailayya is a drill operator. He wanted to buy a new slab driller for Rs. 14,000 and went to a shop, with the money in Rs. 1000 notes. The vendor would only accept the notes with a commission – Rs. 100 per Rs. 1000. Ailayya hadn’t budgeted for a Rs. 1400 commission, and couldn’t pay the vendor.

I have to wait a few days without work to get the new notes now. I don’t have a bank account either. What can I do without a drilling machine?

One story was lighter in tone.

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(Image: 7MB) A choice of nothing to drink, and too much to drink

Umayr wanted a drink in the morning.

I went to buy toddy from a local shop. Each bottle is Rs. 50. The bartender told me to buy for Rs. 500 or for nothing at all.

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(Image: 7MB) Lakshmi needs cooking oil to make food for her family

Lakshmi took Rs. 500 to buy cooking oil for the morning’s food. With shopkeepers refusing the note, she used her change to buy Rs. 50 worth of oil. She’s not sure how she will cook dinner tonight.

What will I eat tomorrow?

She has no bank account, and being illiterate, says she doesn’t know how to operate the ATMs anyway. She has Rs. 40,000 in cash at her home, from the sale of agricultural land, but the money is as good as useless for now.

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(Image: 7MB) Daily wage labourers can’t work for the day, as all their clients pay in 500 rupee notes

We make about 450 or 500 rupees per day. We can’t accept the old notes today, but nobody has change. There’s no work for us today.

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(Image: 7MB) Commission agents take their cut, and hand out change

Commission agents exchange 1000 and 500 rupee notes for smaller denominations at the petrol bunk. They operate blatantly in front of a policeman. Their charge? Ten percent.

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Petrol bunks faced packed crowds all day. Most only accepted transactions in multiples of 500 or 1000 rupees. While cab-hailing apps like Uber and Ola allow card transactions, auto drivers had no such alternative for payment.

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(Image: 7MB) With no customers and no fuel, Pandu parked his auto on the side of the road

I’ve parked my auto on the side here, because customers keep coming with Rs. 500. There’s no value in those notes anymore. Even though I made no money today, I’ll have to pay Rs. 300 in the evening for renting my auto. The petrol bunks won’t fill fuel for less than Rs. 500 – which is my entire daily expense. So I have no fuel now.

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(Image: 7MB) Small business owners like Kavitha faced a day of no revenues and wasted stocks

Kavitha’s husband used to count cards at a gambling club. Then once the clubs were all shut down, they fell into difficulties. They had two kids who used to study in a private school – who had to shift to a public school following the move. She and her husband started selling food on the road in Banjara Hills five years ago. “Competition has increased. It used to be just us, but then more people came and set up stalls on this road.”

Today morning, someone came and brought a 500 rupee note. Without knowing, I took it. Then someone told me these notes are useless. After that, no customers came without 500 notes. We haven’t had any business today, and we’ve already made the food.

(Image: 7MB) Mohammad Sajjid faces extortions threats on top of those of having notes he can’t exchange

Mohammad Sajjid has selling t-shirts here for 20 years. He gets them from Secunderabad, and make about 15-20 rupees profit on each t-shirt. “It costs me Rs. 100 of fuel to get here each day, and I make about Rs. 500 per day.”

He has two daughters, studying science in intermediate school. If he doesn’t accept Rs. 500 notes, he won’t have any business. So he’s been taking them, even though he doesn’t have a bank account.

I’m a third grade pass-out. I don’t know how to operate bank accounts or ATMs. How will I manage?

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Every four days, people from the local slum come and harass him for money, which they use to drink with. They are usually drunk when they come, and if he doesn’t pay up, they destroy his wares. He thinks of his business and his children being affected, so he doesn’t fight back.

He believes he will weather the storm, however. “Allah is there. It will work out.”


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