70 year old Ramesh Parthasarathy had never used his debit card before. The card that was issued by his bank almost a year ago had never left its pouch. Not a single scratch. His son had set a PIN when the senior citizen received it for the first time. It was used for the first time in a super market on Tuesday by the 70 year old man. Demonetisation has pushed the country into a cash crunch and many senior citizens like Parthasarathy have been compelled to switch to digital transaction.
"We come from a generation that never had the need to rely on plastic. We had money in our pockets, at home or banks. I have never used debit card to pay for anything. I go to my bank and withdraw money. Having money in my pocket translates to a sense of security for me", the senior citizen said after swiping his card on a PoS machine. The excitement and anxiety was clear on his face. The entire process of the cashier swiping his card, showing him the total amount, handing over the PoS machine so he can punch in the pin and the receipt it produces, Parthasarathy watched it all keenly. "Remembering this pin is the only problem", he laughed when asked if he finds digital transaction easier.
63 year old R Janakiram is no fan of electronic monetary transactions. "I read so much about ATM frauds, account information phishing and card duplication. I do not trust digital payments completely. There is always this eerie sense of someone spying on my transactions", he said. He is one of those many urban senior citizens who have used ATM cards at kiosks to draw money but not used it to pay or transact directly. "I have had an ATM card for almost 5 years and I have used it to withdraw money from an ATM. I have however, never used it to pay directly. This is new for me and I am a bit sceptical about it", added.
The 63 year old also told us about how he paid his electricity bill online for the very first time. "I needed help. I had no clue how to go about and what an OTP means. I sat through as my niece explained how bills are paid. I think I will be able to manage it now on", he said. This was the first time he made an electronic transfer of money.
Demonetisation has surely created a cash crunch in the country but senior citizens shifting to digital mode is probably a positive for the government that is trying to give India a digital push.
Many senior citizens have also chosen to go digital simply because the queues outside ATM kiosks and banks are too long or have no cash. With just two more days to go, many ATMs in rural as well as urban India continue to run dry. Some not even calibrated to dispense Rs 500 notes. While 'No cash' boards hang outside ATMs and banks, citizens have but no choice to go digital. Some look at it as a burden while others as a new lesson learnt.