As the government moves forward with the demonetisation exercise, much has been said for and against the move. While many common citizens have expressed support for it, terming the inconvenience a temporary difficulty, some socially vulnerable groups suddenly find themselves in a more worrisome situation.
Living Smile Vidya, an LGBT activist from Chennai, says, "Many transwomen don't have bank accounts or ID proofs, so it's difficult for them to change the notes in the banks. I'm very worried about others from my community and how they will manage."
Opening a bank account is challenging for many transgender people because the majority of them leave their home at a very young age and do not have the KYC documents or ID proofs that banks require. At this juncture, they are not sure what the immediate future holds for them.
Sankari, a transwoman, who has a bank account says, "Changing money becomes a problem only if you have lots of it. Most people like me are below the poverty line. But we're finding it very difficult to withdraw money from the ATMs."
Not many transwomen have family support. They are dependent on their community network to manage their day-to-day living. With the shortage of liquid cash, Sankari and her friends are getting through by exchanging notes for change among each other. Sankari says, "We have small savings of a few thousands but are unable to take it out. By the 10th of every month, we have to pay many utility bills. I have to pay chit fund money. I wish the government had done this after the 10th and made it easier for the public."
Swetha Shankar of the International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care (PCVC), says that the move has hit victims of domestic violence hard: "We're trying to figure out just how bad it is. Most such women don't have bank accounts or even ID cards. If working, they prefer to keep their salary in cash. They hide it in the closet, bathroom...somewhere. We've received many calls from worried women in the past few days."
Swetha observes that women who live in violent homes tend to hoard cash as a reserve for an emergency: "The information still hasn't trickled down. Some of them have secret passbooks in their names because their spouse cannot know that they have money. We make deposits on their behalf. We're being pre-emptive now, calling women we're in touch with and telling them how to go about it."
Women from lower economic groups have been affected, too. Krithika*, a project manager in a car manufacturing company, says that her domestic help is terrified because she has hoarded about 3 lakh rupees for her daughter's wedding over the years. The cash is mostly in 500 and 1000 rupee notes."Her husband refuses to go to work. He doesn't know that she has so much cash at home. She doesn't have a bank account either. I'm trying to help her by doing what I can," she says.
While many voice the view that the â€śgreater goodâ€ť compensates for temporary inconveniences, there are others in difficult and risky circumstances for whom the security of their small savings has suddenly been lost.