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Collateral damage of demonetization: 80-year old Gurgaon man breaks down after failing to withdraw cash
Despite PM Modi's assurances that no common man would suffer due to demonetization, Tuesday's edition of Hindustan Times carried a story along with the picture of 80-year-old man crying after failing to withdraw the required cash in spite of standing for long in a bank queue.

The image that immediately went viral over the internet, has now become symbolic of the sufferings of millions of people from economically weaker sections of society who had no black money to declare in the first place, but are yet subjected to grave inconvenience by being made to stand in long queues for withdrawing small amounts of cash from their own bank accounts.

While the elite, rich and affluent people have easily managed to avoid standing in queues, the poorest of poor of the country emerged as the prime victims of this collateral damage caused by demonetization.

The 80-year old man in the picture is Nand Lal, who fits the bill of a perfect nationalistic Indian in every aspect. He's retired from the Indian Army and now lives in Gurgaon, India's millennium city, and not some far-flung village where there's lack of even basic amenities.

Nand Lal, who lives in Old Gurgaon's Bhim Nagar area in a rented 8x10 room, went to the bank on Tuesday, although not for the first time. After standing in a serpentine queue for a long time, he was told that he could only get Rs 10,000, but since he required more, he broke down.


Nand Lal who lives alone, had migrated from Dera Ghazi Khan (now in Pakistan) during the partition of 1947. He joined the military and retired in 1991. Since he didn't have kids of his own, he adopted a girl and educated her. She is now happily married and lives in Faridabad.

His daughter insists that he live with her family, but he says that it's against his customs. Besides, he also says that his daughter does not allow him to smoke. Lal takes Rs 10,000 a month from his daughter and also gets Rs 8,000 pension from the government.

Although he has paid his monthly rent which is Rs 3,000 and also paid his maid who charges Rs 6,500 per month, he still wants to withdraw cash and keep it with himself. Perhaps the old-timer has lost complete faith in India's banking system and Modi ji says we must go cashless, what a dilemma?

Nand Lal who has Rs 45,000 in his bank account is adamant that he wants to withdraw the entire amount. He has an account in State Bank of India's New Colony branch in Gurgaon. A resilient Nand Lal says, "I will have to go again. I have paid my dues, but I want my money with me. I will go to bank again and no matter how long the queue is, I will keep standing there because it's my money after all and I have the rights to get it."

This story desperately compels us to shift our focus on the government's apathy towards the most downtrodden people of the country. Today, overwhelmed by melancholy, the poet in me feels like crooning the famous lines from Sahir Ludhianvi's poetry: "Jinhe naaz hai hind par woh kahan hain?"

Though we might be short on cash today, but we're certainly not short on sarcasm. PM Modi has told you to bear the trouble for the first 50 days, he probably means to convey that you'll most likely get used to standing in a queue outside a bank or an ATM by the 51st day!

Brace yourself for more longer queues as the cash withdrawal limits might not end on December 30, if a latest news report is to be believed. The government is not expected to remove the cash withdrawal limits until at least 3/4th of currency is put back into circulation, and we're well, almost just halfway there so far.

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