With credit, debit cards rendered useless, Chennai turns desperate for cash

Swathi Moorthy Chennai | Updated on January 16, 2018 Published on December 14, 2016

For Nandhini S, an IT professional, much of Wednesday was spent running from pillar to post just to buy essentials. She had some ₹300 in cash, but this could buy only milk and vegetables from a supermarket. She had to rely on her regular kirana store for the other things, bought on credit.

“ATMs are not working. Due to network failure, no supermarket is accepting credit or debit cards. I’m running my family of four on credit,” she said. For Nandhini, it was a harking back to last December, when floods had brought Chennai to its knees. But this this time, demonetisation had made matters worse..

Nandhini’s experience has been that of hundreds across the city, with people’s frustration and anger rising with little or no cash on hand, few ATMs working, failed network that had rendered credit and debit cards useless, and one set of people insisting on cash payments for goods and services. The situation is worse in the pockets where power is yet to be restored. The saving grace has been the trust local shops and supermarkets have in regulars to extend them credit. At a popular department store in Egmore, the owner said: “I ask regular customers to pick up stocks and pay later. What else can be done? All of us face the same problem.”

Saikrupa Suneel, a Chartered Accountant, said, “None of the supermarkets is accepting ₹2,000 notes. Either we buy merchandise for at least that amount or offer lower denomination notes; the supermarts would not give change.”

Transport was another problem. Shobana Vasudevan, another IT professional, usually drives to work. But, today, she had to take two buses and a share-auto to reach her office. “We had spent most of the cash in buying essentials. Since petrol bunks are not accepting card, I had to take the public transport. It took me two hours more to reach my workplace as the bus service was patchy,” she said.

For people who depend on cabs, it was a huge blow with telecom networks down. Post-demonetisation, cabs had become the preferred mode of transport for many as they facilitated digital transaction and were cheaper than auto-rickshaws to boot.

Priya Selvam, a consultant, said, “I have been using an e-wallet since the announcement of demonetisation. Today, both booking a cab and loading money into the wallet became difficult due to the poor network. I’m relying on autos, which is costing more.”

Published on December 14, 2016
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