In relatively affluent parts of the capital city of Patna, the long queues outside ATMs seen in the first week of notebandi, when the government invalidated 86% of the currency in circulation, creating a massive cash crunch, are history. In poorer parts of the city, however, one can still see 50-odd people lined up outside ATMs at most times. Travel outside the capital and this pattern repeats itself.
In bigger towns, residents and bank managers said the cash flow has improved. In North Bihar’s Darbhanga, Ramakant Mishra, manager of a Punjab National Bank branch in Qila Ghat, brings out cheques encashed by his customers on November 30, the day this reporter visited his branch. Most cheques ranged between Rs 10,000 to Rs 24,000…
The standard demonetisation narrative has played out in this tola (hamlet) in Karjara panchayat in Gaya, Bihar, about 20 km from Gaya city, on the road that leads to the ancient Buddhist university of Nalanda.
Before demonetisation, we used to get work 20 days in a month, said Bhim Kumar, a young man in the village. However, the demand for labourers has dried up in the town since November 8 when the demonetisation announcement was made. At the same time, the local grameen bank is not letting people withdraw more than Rs 2,000 a week. “We are borrowing from here and there to make ends meet,” said Kumar.
Talk to others in the village – like Lallan Paswan, who has a small shop selling household provisions right next to the highway – and you hear a similar narrative. The monthly turnover at his shop is down by half. His monthly income has dropped from Rs 5,000 to Rs 2,500.
Despite these difficulties, support for demonetisation is high in this village, which is what this reporter also saw while travelling southwards from Raxaul, on the India-Nepal border, towards South Bihar. In Raxaul, Bettiah, Gopalganj, Darbhanga, Patna and now Gaya, public opinion has split over demonetisation.
This split is not easy to understand. Not everyone hurt by demonetisation opposes it. Similarly, not everyone relatively insulated from its worst fallouts supports it. In short, there are complex reactions to demonetisation.
Take education. Between 2010 and now, the number of students passing the state board exams has increased from 85% to 95%. In the same period, the number of students scoring centums (100%) has spiked as well.
However, these numbers, as Scroll reported last month, are challenged by none other than the National Council of Educational Research and Training’s National Achievement Surveys, which point to a precipitous drop in the quality of school education in the state.
Or take healthcare delivery. As a forthcoming story in Scroll will show, while Tamil Nadu continues to score high on metrics like institutional delivery, its numbers on Infant Mortality Rate and Maternal Mortality Ratio have plateaued. The state has also slipped on other metrics like immunisation coverage.
My second field trip in Bihar took me from Patna to Raxaul in the far north. A couple of days there, and then I began trickling southwards. Bettiah. Gopalganj and then Darbhanga. And then Patna again. I will head further south tomorrow — towards Gaya — before turning northeast towards Nalanda and then straight east for Bhagalpur. The task of trying to understand how Bihar is doing continues to flummox and bewilder. Along the way, I am also trying to understand how DeMonetisation is affecting the people of Bihar. This was the first dispatch from the north. On its impacts at Raxaul, and how public opinion is split over “notebandi”.
the concluding part of our story on TN’s school education system.
Between 2010 and 2016, the percentage of students passing the state’s tenth standard board exams rose from mid-eighties to mid-nineties. So did the scores and the tally of students getting a centum, or 100%.
Conducted by the Central government’s National Council for Education, Research and Training to track learning outcomes, the survey conducts classroom tests every three years for students in the third, fifth, eighth and tenth grades in all Indian states and Union territories. Its assessment of India’s tenth standard students in 2015 placed Tamil Nadu’s students close to the bottom in every subject.
The second — and concluding — part of this story will be published tomorrow.