Almost 20 days after Ibrahimpur was declared the first cashless village in south India, villagers are still facing the challenges of financial technology, and learning every day.
“I did not know anything about online transactions, I still sometimes get doubts. But this has made things easy for me and my customers,” says Ramaswamy, who owns a kirana shop in Ibrahimpur.
Ramaswamy is now a happy man, he does not have to close his shop every week and stand in long queues in the bank.
“Initially, when I had to shut my shop twice a week to get cash from bank, it affected my sale. We could withdraw only Rs.2000. That was too less. Also, the main problem was tendering change. Banks dispense Rs.2000 note which are nearly impossible for us to get change for,” he said.
With the population of 1290 people, this village was earlier adopted by irrigation minister T Harish Rao, who took to the construction of toilets as a special drive and moved the entire administration in that direction. The village has become a model for the clean ways it follows, with no garbage strewn around, and plastics disposed-off appropriately. The village boasts of clean lanes and good sanitary practises.
After November 8, much like the rest of the country, demonetization threw up severe problems for the community.
“The bank is 5km from the village, and there is no public transport available to go there. Either one has to book the whole auto to go there, or else get there in an own vehicle. Many had to walk 5km every week to withdraw cash. Some of them were daily wage labourers, who had to waste their whole day standing in a queue from morning to evening,” said Yella Reddy, son of sarpanch Laxmi Raghava Reddy.
To overcome the cash crisis, this village has adapted to new technologies.
“60% of the people already had bank accounts but did not have debit cards. After narrating our daily plight to Harish garu, he decided with the sarpanch to make the village cashless,” said K Yella Reddy.
By last week of November, the villagers were given special instructions and classes on PoS machines and how to use debit cards.
“Andhra Bank officials and some youngsters in the village who were aware of the online transaction helped teach the villagers,” Yella Reddy said.
“I have never used all these machines before, I thought it will be very complicated. But I finally learnt to use it. It is much easier as nobody has to fight for change, customers pay the exact amount,” Ramaswamy explained.
“I got my debit card on December 1, since then I make all the transaction online. I am still learning to use it, few youngsters in the village come and teach us,” said Laxmi, a resident of the village.
Many families who did not have bank accounts now have opened their accounts in Andhra Bank branch at the nearby Nararayanraopet village.
“Even children above 7 years of age have minor bank accounts. By December 5, all the villagers got their debit cards and they were all set to use the PoS machines provided in all the shops in the village, including provision stores, fertiliser shop and fair price shop, so villagers can swipe their cards to buy goods for their daily requirements,” Yella Reddy added.
“For now, the shops are connecting their PoS with mobile phone through Bluetooth. Today a BSNL tower is being set up. After this, we are expecting free WiFi in the whole village,” Yella Reddy explained.