TOWARDS A DIGITAL LIFESTYLE ON BLISTERED FEET!
WE INDIANS ARE, AT BOTTOM, ONLY A CLUMSY BUNCH!
ADMIT IT HONESTLY!
An observation, shell shocker as it may be to many of us, like “From this midnight onward, all currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 shall cease to be legal tender” can be understood and allowed to slowly sink in but “We are turning cashless from this month onward” can’t be stomached not only for the simple reason that the FM and PM suddenly changed their focus from black money hunting to this but also for the presumption it makes of too many things remaining unjustified by ground realities across the whole nation!
Some of these things, which Mr. Modi never probably foresaw in his peremptory stance, are the following:
- The whole of India is having plentiful power
- All Indians are capable of buying and sensibly using smartphones
- All Indians are able to get run their bank accounts with minimum balance of Rs 5000 or Rs 10000 at all times
- All Indians are having bank accounts
- All banks issue check books having at least 1200 leaves so that a month’[s expenses can be covered online through cashless payments and remittances.
- All Indians have Internet access and PCs
- All Indians are able to Use Credit or debit cards too at ATMs
- No Indian really likes to deal in cash but only online!
And these are all both totally fictitious and mere figments of the Union Government’s imagination or they go diametrically against known facts till date.
Much of India IS having regular supply of power but the reliability of this supply is in question. India is still considerably energy-hungry!
Power can go out at any moment at least in my home State. Power outages can occur also owing to repair on holidays but certainly the supply regularity can’t be trusted at ANY time. And both a PC and POS machine operate only if we have power! ATMs it seems is having some battery backup.
No fish woman is going to accept your check; no roadside teashop can be expected to possess a POS machine to use your Credit or Debit Card!
And to use either the Smartphone or the ATM intelligently you DO need some skill too!
As far as bank account penetration goes it is still 30% to 70% with 70% of unorganized labor and commoners being OUTSIDE the financial system. All migrant laborers here in Kerala –over 20 lakh of them–manage their affairs without any bank account at all (They can’t open the same too without being familiar enough to rope in someone to introduce them to the bank in question and provide the bank with many more details than they can safely provide!) but through an in-house cash dispatch mechanism! One among 50 laborers travels all the way to the home State concerned (Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar or West Bengal) and makes the trips needed to individual homes in order to dispense with the amounts to the dear and near ones or dependents of the laborer in Kerala!)
No bank in India issues check books having 200 leaves to any customer month after month! ICICI issues only a book with 5 leaves.
Internet penetration is equally single digit, though social media get used by peculiarities of demographics by the 20-40 aged segment of the population to about 20% or slightly more.
We in India have always, thanks to our conventional ways of living, dealt only in cash and kind all these days and still at many shops cash payments are openly preferred as closing the deal.
A million kirana shops dot our nation and all of them find digital running of business really fraught with problems of many kinds. Moreover no Indian has the easy familiarity he feels at a kirana shop at ANY of the supermarkets!
It is stupid of us if we conclude, after visiting a few supermarkets or hyper malls, that India is having adequate infrastructure to go cashless from tomorrow onward just with as wave of the PM’s magic wand! Over 80% of Indians today depend in Rural India (or Bharat if you wish to call her so!) on small provision shops or grocers for managing their daily life!
And finally, the deplorable presumption that all Indians are empowered enough to have mastered a bit of computer technology, needed to do their transactions.
[I pity the Union ministry in this regard because it tells me that they coolly ignored the Factor X—Self Empowerment thru PC– that made the US of the early 1980’s so suddenly all round successful and unimaginably prosperous—the small form factor into which Steve Jobs reduced the computer!
>80% American citizens irrespective of gender, physical health and age became PC literate within weeks and months and started their own enterprises ,small shops expanded into huge chains and corporate firms found it easy to control and effectively run a thousand business firms globally with its help.
America became impossibly prosperous and also proud of its superiority over other nations—including India and most South Asian nations east of the Mediterranean— that were still way too behind it.[Recall, we had the License-and-Permit Raj during those infamous Congress-led and most messed-up days!]
Its industries could program timely deliveries of their finished goods, import and export processes became paper less and communications gained by being online. Email communications got fathered forth too!]
Yes, we Indians leapt into the void without any basic citizen level empowerment and preparation for a digital lifestyle because we are, according to our PM, determined to maximize our daily transactions online and not offline in hard cash.
That way at least we can be world class in conviction! Agreed for argument’s sake!
Yes, the many Union ministries that preceded 2014 stand at fault for not either giving enough priority to this one item in the budget and national initiatives but also for many others sins of omission or commission. Agreed.
Yes, Mr. Modi possesses, unlike his so-so predecessors including probably even Chacha Nehru, a vision and a mission to take India forward if needed by holding her hand through many sequential major initiatives, this demonetization being one of them and the going cash less being another though not immediately linked to the former! Admitted.
TODAY’S DIGITIZATION MESS!
Digitization and electronic linking of Aadhaar with PAN card have run aground today simply because if one is chalk the other happens to be cheese! Those that stood in front for launching them at different times (PAN came much earlier than Aadhaar) had never thought in advance of eve having to link both of them using biometric parameters and precise postal addresses!
Digital banking is giving me the shivers; most confidential documents are sent in PDF (“Sir, it’s the standard mode!”) without even asking me if I have PDF on my PC. It’s all glibly assumed! Many need a prerequisite Adobe 7 too! I still have glitches when I try to withdraw some money from any ATM—not to mention the innumerable risks associated with using it in this country! Bank officials have also been caught red handed for stealing the money of account holders by getting their PINs through sales talk!
Some banks, obsessed with security of customer data, added an extra level of security with an ATP, which operates supposedly 24/7 but which often takes over 5 minutes to appear on your cell phone –thus landing you into a noisy argument with the person standing behind you in a queue at super markets on busy days.
For instance, there is no standardization done in the spelling of individual names. Machines can’t take names typed into them in a thousand and one ways at all. And in India individual names can take 1001 varied formats too!
One of my alienated BILs (A physician in his 70’s in the US) was, vide his Matriculation Certificate, known as “Sivasankaran” but later he changed it at will and not with any gazette notification as “Siva V. Sankaran”.
Another BIL (A fully retired civil servant) has both his parental family name and his Uncle’s name appended to his real name. No machine can digest this kind of variety!
Many of us Indians have the names of our home villages and native places appended to our names too. Often we have pet or nicknames attached to our names—e.g. Chiyaan Vikram (cine artiste), Bharat Mohanlal, Singam Surya (another cine artiste).
Often we have abbreviations also (e.g. MMS)
ALL these confuse machines.
Our names MUST first be got standardized!
It’s “Neelakantan “in my Aadhar card (It got typed into the PC by probably an unkempt school leaver at a local junction thanks to outsourcing by the local self-government agency) whereas it is “Neelakandan” in my PAN.
Initials are a particular cause for worry later on.
Passport applications expect you to have a First name, a Last name and a Middle name but unfortunately I don’t have such a name at all.
So, because I can write my name with parental initial in the beginning as “N. Sadasivan” or in the end as “Sadasivan N.” I am often addressed by someone at a distance and not knowing me in person as “Neelakantan” too!
Whose fault has this been?
The government most certainly, because the format was different and the nomenclature in the applications for both these documentary cards were totally different! To add insult to injury, those that used the keyboards were not similarly equipped with the skill needed
As TR Ramaswami of Mumbai has pout it recently in a Letter to the Editor of ET,
“We are trying to digitize 21st century India with British Raj laws and 19th century formats. One would think Robert Clive, Lord Canning or Mountbatten are still ruling us. Instead of wasting time and money in changing road and building names, we should have spent more time in getting our own names and addresses right for digitization in a manly move.
Welcome to a second round of documentation!”
Have a Good Day!