Demonetisation is fine, but where’s my receipt?

While people across the nation run helter–skelter due to cash crunch, here’s an incident I’d like to share.

The metro & parking charges here are nominal, so much so that the preferred method for most of the daily commuters from Gurgaon to Delhi is to park at the station and complete the rest of the trip by metro. So after a trip today, I’m in the the long line of people waiting to get my car out of the parking. I get the glimpse of the guy in the cabin collecting cash & the middle guy passing the money from the car to cabin. It’s perhaps an Indian thing, where even if you had an automated parking, you need one guy to press the button for you & hand you the parking slip.

Crawling & cursing I reach my spot, when the middle man walks away towards a secluded spot behind the parking, probably to answer nature’s call. The guy from the cabin takes my parking slip, has a look at it & calls out for Rs.80. It was the regular amount I used to pay when my office was in Delhi but for around 10 hours of parking (extra charges for basement). In an attempt to hold on to my dear little change I tried paying by debit card. He pointed to his machine and said it wasn’t working. So I pulled out a 50 rupee note & 3 10 rupee coins from my purse. He collects it, puts the Rs.50 in the cash register, the 3 coins on the side of his table & opens the boom barrier.

It’s been my habit, perhaps from my previous work, to collect cash receipts. So subconsciously, inspite of the long wait in the line, I ask for some sort of receipt, even manual would do. By then, he had collected cash from couple of bikers on the other side. The car behind me starts honking. The guy stares at me for a brief, and into my extended arms, drops the 3 coins I gave him. Confused, I ask for a receipt again. Aghast, he enquires my car number. When I tell him, he pulls out a long strand of printed bills from under his table & starts searching. Finds mine, tears apart the top & bottom, hands it to me saying — “Maine aapko 80 rupay galti se bataya”. Things got pretty clear from there on.

When the move of Demonetisation was announced, most of us became economists overnight, appreciating or criticising the move. But the fact that there has been no uprising even after such a dramatic move, is because we all unanimously agree to one thing, that black money exists; And something strong needs to be done for it. When reporters go to the people lined up in front of banks & ATM’s, they complain of discomfort but in the same breath, relish the optimism of some guy losing his unaccounted wealth somewhere in some part of the country.

We are not privy to how this money turns black. We know when we ignore the bill from the grocery guy, we are providing him the ability to fake it. We know, that the discount that the jewellery shop owner offers, brings more benefit to him than us. But we still allow it. We allowed it right under our noses all these years & now hope for a messiah with godly powers to cleanup all the mess in one swipe.

It’s probably because we do not have the right motivation that we do not do so. I say this, because when apps like Crownit come with rewards for uploading bills, more than 5 million people are more than willing to do it. We should be thankful that people in power are maturing to understand this sentiment & taking initiatives like awarding people for taking proper bills.

But besides incentives, what we note here is that technology could play a big inhibiting factor for the traditional methods of generating unaccounted cash. Moving towards a cashless economy aided by technological reforms, does seem to be the right path. So when the government justifies Demonetisation as a much needed catalyst to a reaction they began two years ago, we should wait & watch. The political opposition of a country is an opposition only as long as it plays the Devil’s advocate. Let them all play their part & we play ours.

A friend of mine used to go through each item of the bill, at restaurants. I used to silently ridicule this act, until one day he caught an additional service charge of almost Rs.1000. So you see, as a reward for doing what you ought to do, karma might just reward you a buck or two ;)

Founder @ Jetbrain Robotics

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