5 yrs on, what demonetisation doesn’t let the common man forget

An elderly woman amid a crowd of disappointed people shouting slogans outside the RBI as they could not exchange their old notes, in New Delhi. Photo: PTI file

On the evening of November 8, 2016, Dheeraj Rai's shop in Gandhi Nagar market, Delhi’s largest textile bazaar, was teeming with shoppers fetishizing over the right fit and colour of jeans that Rai and his team of tailors had been sewing for years. That was the last time he remembers seeing such a footfall on his shop floor.

"As soon as news spread about pradhan mantriji's notebandi [Prime Minister's note ban] announcement, there was chaos everywhere. Things started to fall apart soon after," says Rai. The days and months that followed brought more chaos and fewer and fewer customers to his shop. "I had to let go of my assistants one by one, I couldn't afford to pay them anymore. Soon, I was neck-deep in debt."

It took Rai three years to wobble back on his feet, only to crash-land a few months later due to the pandemic. “Now, I have become a complete kangaal (pauper). My panauti (misfortune) that began with notebandi just refuses to go away.”

While Rai still curses that evening of 2016, there are millions of others who have similar tales of an unending nightmare -- some more devastating -- that continue to haunt them even five years after the old currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 were rendered void.

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