By Nilay Wankhade:
On Wednesday mornings, I wake up before the alarm rings. It’s the day of the weekly market of Mhaswad (the block in the Satara district of Maharashtra which has been my home for the past five months, ever since I joined a grassroots social leadership program called India Fellow). As my accommodation is pretty close to the local animal market, the bellows and bleats of the animals are loud enough to work as an alarm. But, on November 9, the scene was unusual. Instead of the animal sounds, the noise of people quarrelling and arguing was louder. The reason being the decision of the Government to demonetise high-value currency notes announced the night earlier. I regularly visit this weekly animal market to collect import and export statistics on the current highs and lows in the market; which is later aired on the radio.
I work with a community radio and was equipped with recording instruments, but this time I visited the market with a different purpose. It was to see how the market proceeds and record opinions of the farmers and dealers on demonetisation. To my surprise, some parts of the market were unaware of the government’s decision and people were accepting demonetised currency without any hesitation. While other parts of the market were confused whether to accept high-value currency or not.
Members of the market committee were also unable to guide the farmers, as they were waiting to hear from higher authorities. Usually, the market shuts by 10 am, but that day, it got extended further due to the decision.
I recorded the opinions of the farmers and dealers to find out whether they agreed with the government’s decision or not. I got a mixed response. The market statistics indicated that it wasn’t a good day.
The number of transactions in the market went down by almost half that day. Many of the farmers and dealers waited for some time and left the market without engaging in any transactions and were looking forward to next Wednesday. Some farmers sold their cattle due to financial urgencies and had to do business at a lower price and against their will. That morning brought forth, a completely unexpected scenario.
The condition was pretty much the same at the vegetables and grocery market too. People were confused as they held their high-value currency notes, trying to make arrangements for that week’s supplies. By the end of the day, I was able to record the opinions of more than a dozen people. There were a few, who were completely against this decision whereas the majority looked at it positively. Despite this harsh and swift decision, the majority of the people were patient. They are ready to face discomfort to a certain extent, if the promised outcomes of the decision are achieved.
About the author: Nilay Wankhade is an India Fellow of the 2016 cohort currently working with a grassroots community empowerment organisation which also has a community radio of its own called Manndeshi.