AROUND noon on a Thursday, there is no electricity in Lanura. A sudden gust of wind had snapped the power lines and they now lie listlessly over the tree tops. Sitting in his rundown grocery shop, Ghulam Mohammad Dar says, “This is how it is here. We barely get electricity for six hours a day. And when we do, it is in spurts. We can never plan our day.”
Welcome to Lanura, J&K’s first officially declared “cashless” village. Here, most villagers haven’t seen or even heard of credit cards; the Internet doesn’t work and when it does, is frustratingly slow; and electricity is often at the mercy of the elements.
“Of course, our village is cash-less,” says Ghulam Hassan Sheikh, the former sarpanch of the village, barely hiding his sarcasm. “We are a village of daily-wage labourers. We earn a few thousands a month and now they say we must learn to live without cash. So yes, we are cashless,” he says sitting on his haunches outside one of the shops in the centre of the village.
On December 15, a release on the official website of district Budgam claimed that Lanura had become the “first village in Jammu and Kashmir” to go “cashless”. “At least one member of each household has been trained in EPS (Electronic Payment System). Thirteen merchants have been brought under EPS… The total number of persons trained on EPS in the village has touched 150,” the release read.
Villager Ghulam Nabi Najar, a retired Armyman who has spent several years in Pune and returned to Lanura only a few years ago, says, “In Pune, I have seen people using cards to make payments but I have never done it myself. I don’t know how to do it. We are poor villagers and most of us don’t even have smart phones”.
Though almost all the villagers have bank accounts, Lanura doesn’t have a bank or an ATM; the nearest one is at the J&K Bank branch in Kremshore, 3 km from the village.
Riyaz Ahmad Sheikh, 28, from Lanura, works as a guard at the ATM in Kremshore. “This ‘cashless village’ is a joke,” he says, standing with the group outside Dar’s shop. “Many villagers don’t even know how to use an ATM card. They give it to me and ask me to withdraw money for them.”
Riyaz’s name figures in the list of people from Lanura who have been trained to teach villagers in the use of technology for cashless transactions.
The project to train people in electronic payments was launched earlier this year by the Common Services Centre (CSC) of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. The training is imparted by Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLEs) affiliated to CSCs. The two CSC trainers at Lanura have submitted to the District Informatics Officer in Budgam a list of 150 people in Lanura who have ostensibly been “trained”.
Waseem Manzoor, a Class VI student, also figures on this list. “I don’t know anything about this training. I can only use the cell phone to make calls, nothing more,” he says.
The article first appeared here