Solapur : Fuelled by rumours after demonetisation, the working class in Solapur are queuing up before the moneylenders for exchanging old notes instead of going to the bank. With this the moneylenders have been minting money.
Shriram, a farmer, and his friends quit the long line outside a bank when they came to know that their fingers will be inked for the exchange of demonetised notes. They fear the mark will identify people with new currency notes and the police will take them into custody to enquire about the source.
Most women workers have not gone to the banks to exchange old notes as they believe the government will withdraw their gas subsidies if they disclose the money they have.
Some workers said the government will cancel the below poverty line card of those whose bank accounts will reflect more than Rs 29,000.
This ‘government is watching me’ rumour and a host of others are driving the workers away from banks and bank accounts and into the arms of waiting moneylenders.
Here, they exchange the old currency notes-Rs 300 for Rs 1,000. Moneylenders give them Rs 100 notes and charge extra for lower denominations. Some have made the Solapur railway station their exchange point to escape police scrutiny.
“We heard that by scrapping the old notes, the government is checking how much money people like us have. Why should we disclose our money to the government? Do they want to cancel subsidies and the schemes for the poor?” bidi roller Ganga Langdewale said.
M H Sheikh, leader of the workers’ union in Solapur, said the government issues new orders every day which is confusing. “There is much rumour mongering which the poor are succumbing to. Moneylenders in Solapur are making big business out of currency exchange,” he said, while alleging that they were hand-in-glove with the administration and bankers who are helping them dispose of the old notes.
Outside the gates of Shri Siddheshwar sugar mill, two money lenders with leather bags hang around near the makeshift huts of cane cutters. They refuse to speak to ‘outsiders’ and when asked what work they have with cane cutters, they scrammed.
Cane cutter Sharada, who has migrated from Beed, claimed she is unaware of what is happening. “I am not sure what this scrapping of currency is. We don’t have money at all to exchange,” she said.
She said the men in her family had warned her not to talk about money exchange with anyone. But she admits that the poor are being swindled in the post-demonetisation process.