'The mindset of people needs to change.'
'We still believe in accepting cash when we can do business with digital money as well.'
Kiran Mahida, a chaiwallah, tells Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf why India will embrace Narendra Modi's vision of a cashless economy just as he has.
Tea vendor Kiran Mahida, who was among those who proposed Narendra Modi's candidature when the then Gujarat chief minister filed his nomination papers from the Vadodara Lok Sabha constituency in April 2014, has gone digital.
A month after Prime Minister Modi announced his demonetisation plan, Mahida, the chaiwallah, has understood the importance of a cashless economy.
"I have gone digital because I think, as our prime minister says, it is the future. Plastic money is catching up very fast among the common man," Mahida told Rediff.com
"I have already installed Paytm on my smartphone," Mahida says. "In two days I am getting a PoS (Point of Sale) machine so that my customers can pay by credit or debit cards."
Mahida has taken Modi's words seriously and has been going around his locality convincing vegetable and fruit vendors of the benefits of a cashless economy.
"Earlier, nobody used cards. Now everyone has it. I feel, in the future, everyone will have Paytm too. I go and explain this to everyone. Anyone can download Paytm. It is very easy," he says.
"It is just the mindset of people that needs to change. We still believe in accepting cash when, in fact, we can do business with digital money as well. I have been doing it for the last two days," he adds.
Mahida has so far earned Rs 700 from the Paytm payment device; over 45 customers paid him through their mobile phones. He was elated to see the transactions moving digitally.
"People who do not have change are using Paytm. Believe me, Paytm has reached many villages too," he says.
Asked if his business had suffered post-November 8, Mahida says: "I sold tea on credit to many of my customers from November 9. I have a loyal clientele and I knew that they would pay me back. And they did pay after they got lower denomination currency notes. My business did not suffer."
"If you are doing business you know your honest customers," he explains. "Every businessman knows honest customers never cheat; they will pay their dues whenever they get money in their hands. Therefore, honest customers and shopkeepers did not face trouble post demonetisation. It is only cheaters who faced problems as they never got credit from shopkeepers."
"(Laughs) People who have black money are opposing demonetisation. These black money hoarders are suffering. 90 per cent of Indians are with Modiji on demonetisation."
Despite reports of massive inconvenience to Indians on account of shortage of new currency notes in banks and ATMs, Mahida believes the problem will soon be resolved.
"The entire country faced the cash problem for a week, but now the problem will be solved soon," he says adding, "The Modi government has taken a great decision. Though I am a tea vendor, I file my income tax returns regularly. Today, I can contest elections against any Maharaja or Rajmata because neither them nor me has any black money. This demonetisation move gives equal opportunity to every Indian."
Praising demonetisation, he says, "If you check the queue outside banks, you see the rich queuing up along with the poor. This makes you feel that Modiji is a very pro-poor prime minister. Earlier, only poor people used to stand in queue, but today even the rich are standing there."
Mahida has vivid memories of meeting Modi in his New Delhi office.
"It was a very brief meeting and I was very happy to see him as the prime minister of our country. In just two years, he has made our country proud. Internationally, India is known today because of Modiji," he says.
"I feel proud to see a chaiwallah as the prime minister of India. Earlier, nobody used to marry our children because chaiwallahs' social status was not high. People used to wonder how a chaiwallah will run his household with a meagre income," Mahida says.
"But due to Modiji, our status has increased in society. Now everyone respects us. Modiji has brought status to chaiwallahs' lives."