Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar launched the Vittiya Saksharata Abhiyan (VISAKA) on December 1 to appeal to the academic community to become part of a nationwide campaign to make India cashless. Addressing students and teachers through video-conferencing, he said that demonetisation was a “move towards a cashless society” and that VISAKA was an opportunity for them to be a “partner” in India’s growth story.
The campaign, beginning December 12, seeks to train students as volunteers. These volunteers are expected to train their family and 10 selected households in using digital payment modes. Other moves include involving NSS/NCC volunteers going to markets to urge shopowners and customers to use cashless modes of transaction, and directing universities and institutes to declare themselves cashless by January 12.
YKA spoke to leaders of student bodies across India to get their view on the government’s move.
Many student leaders said that while they were willing to participate in educating others about digital financial literacy, most didn’t seem too happy about the government’s demonetization decision.
Osama Adil, General Secretary for Hostel Affairs, IIT Bombay told YKA that this would be “a learning experience for everyone”. He called the government campaign a good move. Since the college is not in session, he added the campaign would only begin from January.
A Good Idea That Is Waste Without Preparation
AMU’s Women’s College Students Union Vice President Farheen Sherwani and union’s Secretary Utba Israr Sheikh sarcastically said that they were already ‘cashless’ due to the government’s demonetization drive. Sheikh added that the idea was good but would be just a waste without preparation.
“Internet packs are so costly that most people will not be able to afford it (going digital). They could have made internet free for everybody and given them resources so that people could work with it. Right now people don’t have internet at public places, you(the government) are unable to give people more than half-an-hour of wifi, and then you (the government) are asking people to use the internet to pay,” Sheikh told YKA. She added that she does not understand the move as India is an agricultural society not yet equipped to use technology. She wondered how the idea would work in Kashmir and in states like Kashmir where internet gets banned often.
Students Distraught But Will Volunteer If They Get Certificates
AMU Students’ Union President Faizul Hasan said that while students were distraught due to demonetisation, many would be willing to teach digital financial literacy to other people if a certificate was issued. “If a certificate is distributed, then that will be a benefit (of volunteering). Then more students will work,” he told YKA. The MHRD circular on VISAKA has asked directors of all institutions to ensure that students who volunteer for the campaign are awarded necessary credit in academics under project work.
Hasan also told YKA that while the dining halls on campus have installed PoS machines (card-swipe machines) but canteens have not been able to do so due which they are experiencing difficulties. “Moreover, there are some people who are illiterate. So many people don’t even have ATM-cards. How will they do all this?“ he added.
Kuldeep Singh Nagi, the President of University of Hyderabad’s Students’ Union, too expressed similar concerns about going cashless. He said that while the university hasn’t given them any specific direction, the move could be implemented slowly since the university is not ready.
People From Rural Areas, Daily Wagers Will Be Affected
“The thing is in universities, for instance in the University of Hyderabad, there are many people who are coming from marginalised sections and rural backgrounds. There are some people who haven’t seen even a computer. How are you expecting them to use things like internet banking?” Nagi told YKA. He added that while they are ready to train people, for road-side vendors, daily-wagers, rickshaw-pullers, etc, this might be a problem. “They take home whatever they earn during the day. How will they survive when we go cashless?“ Nagi said.
We Have Had To Ask The University To Allow Other Modes Of Payment
Mohit Pandey, President of JNU Students’ Union, told YKA that they hadn’t seen any visible change on campus as queues outside ATMs continue to be long.
In JNU, he said, they themselves have had to ask the administration to be allowed to use modes of payment other than cash, like cheques or online banking, for making payments to the hostel administration.
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