A week on since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes will no longer be legal tender, Kashmir is yet to see any unusual crowds at banks or ATMs, something that is being seen in several places in the country.
Muhammad Farooq, a retired government official, who lives in the summer capital of Srinagar, says he never panicked after Modi announced demonestisation. “We do have some big currency notes, but why to panic for their fate, when you still have enough time left for exchange or deposits,” he says.
But then how did the man run his family for all these days. “See basically we didn’t need much of money, for we had already stock up essentials. The rest you manage through leftover small currency notes,” he says.
Farooq is one of the many people in Kashmir, who seem to be unnerved by demonetisation.
Showkat Ahmed, a businessman from South Kashmir’s apple town of Shopian says his only worry was to fill the fuel tank of his car. “We have stock of essentials including food grains and provision like soaps and shampoos, which can last for three-four months. My only concern was to fill my car’s fuel tank which I managed as the petrol pumps were given a relaxation to accept the higher denomination notes,” he explains.
Observers opine that Kashmir has a tradition of keeping essentials in store for months. “Given the severe winters, and geographical conditions, which snap road and other communication mediums due to bad weather, people have developed habit of storing essentials for five to six months,” says noted journalist Yusuf Jameel. “This is unlike elsewhere as people outside make such domestic procurements on a daily or weekly-basis,” he adds.
Though in the first two days of demonetisation, the banks in the state recorded a deposit of a whopping Rs 1,100 crores, bankers say the major amount was deposited by some businessmen, mainly from Jammu region.
Banker Ejaz Ayoub says demonetisation impacted the “kitchen budgets” across the country whereas people in Kashmir escaped the chaos as their domestic stocks proved a blessing. “Buying priorities changed. Having stocks in store, people changed the kitchen budgets, postponing plans of buying any new consumer goods,” he says.
He, however, adds that the continued unrest, which has paralysed normal life in the Valley for over four months, has already drained the cash reserves at homes. “There was virtually nothing left in cash to be exchanged or deposited for most of the families,” he says.