A brief encounter of the cashless kind! #demonetisation

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This is the tacky notice stuck with glue on the walls of room No2, of the local office of the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG). a couple of days ago, I had to visit this office to apply for the death certificate of my mother who passed away a week ago. I had confirmed from the hospital that the the papers had been despatched, and had been told that I would have to wait for 2-3 weeks after I paid the money and submitted an application at the MCG office. The application form was simple (simpler than the online one), and another tacky print out glued to the wall said that it would cost Rs35/ with Rs 25/ per additional copy.

Having filled the form I joined a short line of 5-6 people in front of desk 2. And the line moved ever so slowly! Most of those in the line were applicants for birth certificate, for home births and for addition of names to birth certificates issued by government hospitals. Many of the former group were applying years after the birth, pushed by the fact that Aadhaar card has become mandatory for school admissions and for the Aadar application,  birth certificate is required. Hospitals issue birth certificates for s/o, d/o, since few of us Indians name the child at birth. So a fresh application has to be made to add the name. In any case, the increase in registration of  births is a welcome trend, and for this at least the mandatory Aadhaar requirement is a welcome step. There was an occasional death certificate application too.

But the line was moving slowly, because the computer system was slow. In case of the death certificate and hospital issued birth certificate, the name had to be found in the database, and the server responded even slower. And then the payment……..Each applicant had to pay a sum that was usually less than Rs 100/ and thanks to the ‘cashless’ order, the card machine had to be used. And here too the connectivity was slow and took its time. And then there were those who had no card of any sort, and had to be told to go to the cash counter which was elsewhere – there to stand in another line! The young man ahead of me in the line  did not have a card – but the counter clerk puled out a card of his own, deducted Rs 35/- and collected cash from him! I could not make out why he was so rewarded, as the elderly rural woman who did not even know what a card was, was sent off to the cash counter!! And then when my turn came, after almost an hour, the server failed to respond. I hung around for more than half an hour, before the sever came up and my transaction could be completed! The whole process which should have taken 15-20′ (for the 5- 6 persons) ended up taking an hour and a half.

While ‘cashless’ is an ideal goal to strive for, are we ready for it? And if we want cashless, why not hassle less too? Cant the form be filled  and payment made online- then all that is needed is a message sent when the certificate is ready, so that it can be collected. But, the computers in the MCG office looked old, the server speeds were below par and the fthere is no facilitation for the large number of people who live outside the world of ‘banks, plastic…..’. The logic that we can achieve the ‘ideal goal’ only by bulldozing the change seems to lack empathy at all levels. At every visit to the bank, I am helping people to fill in forms of one kind or another! I am wondering, if there is not a more logical and painless way to bring about change!

 

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