Around 15 visually-impaired persons from Thiruvananthapuram protested outside the State Secretariat on Wednesday evening, to bring to the attention of the government the difficulties they face while handling the new currency notes in circulation since demonetisation.
The protesters held up posters that read: "Equal rights for all", "Let's make Kerala a disabled-friendly state", etc.
After demonetisation in November 2016, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) introduced new denominations in different colors. However, with the new notes all coming in fairly similar sizes, unlike earlier, visually impaired people have been facing difficulties in identifying the notes.
Wednesday's protest was a means of bringing their difficulties to the attention of the government, Tiffany Brar, founder of Jyothirgamaya, a support group for visually impaired people, told TNM.
"Earlier, there was a uniformity in sizes. The biggest one was Rs 1,000 and the other notes were smaller in size, which made it easier for us to differentiate between denominations. But now, the notes are too similar in size. While earlier there was a difference of 10 mm in sizes, now it has reduced to just 5mm. They say that there are tactile lines on the notes, but we are not able to feel them," Tiffany said.
Visually impaired herself, Tiffany pointed out how they often get ripped off since they are no longer able to distinguish between the notes.
"Say when we go to a store or hire an autorickshaw. There have been instances where many of us ended up paying with a larger denomination note by mistake. Not everyone is nice enough to tell us we have paid extra. There are people who think they are lucky to have got some extra money," Tiffany said.
Tiffany and the others know that it would be impractical to demand the government to change the sizes of the notes, but feel that the notes should at least have distinguishable tactile lines.
"Say on a Rs 500 note, there can be 5 lines, on a Rs 2,000 note, there could be 6. Like that, we will be able to feel them and understand them, and so we needn't ask around for help. India has about 12 million blind people and there are regulations that exist, which say that we should have equal access to all public resources. Then why is the government not paying attention to us?" Tiffany asked.
The group hopes that the government will take note of their concerns and address their needs.