At the end of the cash-less month

Remember the old Kishore Kumar song “Khush hai zamaana, aaj pehli tareekh hai”(the world is happy, as it’s the first day of the month today). What a joy for the common man in those days, to collect his salary packet after the month was over and come home to a beaming family, everybody happy with cash to spend for the month.

In today’s age of digital banking, the salary is now directly credited to our bank accounts and most payments, like equated monthly instalments (EMIs) and utility bills, are made through standing instructions or online banking. So we are clearly missing out on some joys of ‘pehli tareekh(first day of the month)’. However, all of us still needed to go to the ATM to withdraw cash—for the driver, the housemaid, the tuition teacher, the milkman, the laundryman, the handyman, the car cleaner, and oh yes, your watchman for cleaning the vehicle. However digitally evolved we are, we could not avoid the inevitable cash trip.

And then, 8/11 (8 November) happened. The government’s ‘shock and awe’ move to demonetise existing notes of Rs500 and Rs1,000 has suddenly changed the game. There are long queues outside banks and ATMs. By the way, isn’t this whole thing supposed to be about reducing cash? So, how are you geared for a cash-less month end?

Though it would take time for things to return to normalcy, there are ways to avoid standing in queues, by using online channels of money transfers and payments.

Here’s what you can do. Please check with each person whom you’re supposed to make payments to every month including your: driver, domestic help, milkman, and vegetable seller, if they have a bank account. If they don’t have a bank account, help them to open one by visiting your neighbourhood branch.

Inform them to get their Aadhaar card along for the bank account opening. These days, bank accounts can be opened within minutes.

In all likelihood, they would have an account, as the Prime Ministers’Jan Dhan Yojana has touched every nook and cranny of urban India at least. Chances are, they may not know how to operate it. So, please spend 5 minutes to educate them.

Second, ask them if they have a chequebook or debit card. If yes, then you can transfer money into their account using NEFT (National Electronic Funds Transfer) or any card to card payment service. Another option is to ask them for their MMID (Mobile Money Identifier) so you can transfer instantly using Immediate Payment Service (IMPS). MMID is a seven digit code issued by participating banks to their mobile banking registered customers for availing the IMPS service. Your domestic help has to register her mobile number along with the MMID code for the account to which money is to be transferred. Third, use *99# service on the mobile phone. This (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) USSD code is common across all telecom operators. On dialing *99# on the phone, enter either the first four digits of their bank’s Indian Financial System Code (IFSC) code or a three letter short code to choose a bank account associated with the phone number and then proceed for transfer. In this service, there is a transaction limit of Rs5,000, which is enough for day-to-day requirements until this cash crunch is resolved.

Fourth, ask them to ask their associates, too, to start using the above products to receive money. So they too save those trips to the ATM or the bank. And so on, this virtuous cycle of digital payments expands and powers India into a truly cash-less society. Now, think of all the hours saved collectively by all concerned, and you know, that besides being a war on ‘black money’, demonetisation also helps people lead better lives.

Cannot wait for the pehli tareekh.