Effects of demonetisation on Indian students abroad

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The phenomenon of black money on which Modi earned brownie points during the 2014 elections, that gave him a big edge over the UPA government was dragged into hot debates once again after his shocking announcement of discontinuing of higher denomination currency. The declaration of scrapping Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes has sucked the lifeblood out of India’s economy.

The move has been justified by the government saying that the rich and poor has been taken into consideration; it aims at benefitting the poor by penalising the fat-rich people of the country who have been dodging taxes by holding stockpiles of cash. He asked the middle-class section to support him ensuring that the money collected would put to good use; but what about the Indian students abroad, who depend entirely on the money transferred to them in Indian currency. Would the surprise move not affect their fee payments and daily expenses?

For recent students, who have joined foreign universities this year, the confusion and chaos is as much as it is back home. BBC research has found that students outside of India holding discontinued Rs 500 and Rs 1,000-notes (£6; £12) face difficulties using & exchanging them. Several Indians expatriates rushed to money exchange traders and banks to convert their currency, soon after it stopped being a legal tender. Their request was declined with officials saying that the option to exchange Indian currency was temporarily unavailable.

British banks and foreign exchange companies have denied accepting the notes, whereas the companies accepting the currency with discontinued notes, offered terribly low exchange price.

As advised by the Indian central bank, either the students had to plan a travel back and exchange the notes in person till 30th December, or old notes would have to be exchanged for limited supplies of new currency, not more than INR 5000 at once, at the airports- both of which were impractical. For them, getting to a bank or airport and queueing for hours will cost time they don’t have.

For Avtansh Garg, a student at Loughborough University, UK, it was a futile attempt. He had Rs 15000 in cash demonetised in Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes. “I went to three banks and travel companies in total, and all of them refused to exchange money,” he said. Most of the students had to deposit the first instalment of their tuition and accommodation fee, which got delayed due to economic crisis in India. “We had to deposit the first instalment by 12th November and my parents couldn’t transfer the money. On a special request made at university’s finance office, explaining them the whole scenario, the university granted us an extension of few more days,” he added.

Non-Residential Indians have been guided by The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) saying that Indians could deposit the notes in their non-resident ordinary rupee accounts, a type of bank account where people living abroad park income earned in India. However, students are still looming in an oblivion state, as they have access to no such accounts. Vineet intends to send the old currency notes through his friend who is planning to visit India next month. “There is ruckus and confusion here. Nobody is willing to take old currency,” he said.

Aniket Karlekar, an MBA student, who has come to study in England one month back, talked about the difficulties he has faced while managing his monthly expenses, saying that, “The usual mode of transfer for petty expenses i.e. day to day expense that ranged from 200-250 pounds per month, were usually transferred as cash deposit by parents, but due to the demonetisation it has become nearly impossible to replicate this, making them real worried,” said Aniket, adding, “The cash transfers were of accounted money, and was the most convenient way for my elderly parents who are still accustomed to the age-old techniques. Hailing from a business family with a cash rich business, because of the governments overnight decision, it’s was like for other’s sin we have to pay and suffer abroad!”

As it is a considerable fact that, all Indians, not just the rich, have been hoarders of cash, as that has been a need. Within a jiffy, that money turned into useless bundle; for some it appeared as a problem with the lack of money to be exchanged for the balance of amount that had been paid and the rest suffered while standing in long queues to get their savings exchanged.

Swati Sethi, who lives in Grantham, had to travel 39 km to Lincolnshire where the closest exchange office is located. “Travelling here is expensive and I have no option but to travel to exchange it. It is the money I have been saving for a long time now and I don’t want to devalue it.”

One thing that has missed a mention from the entire set of measures taken by the government is the proper & accurate guidelines for the students abroad. The move that came up surprisingly with the stroke of pen at midnight, have affected many minds with mental stress and tension.

“The government mentioned the measures they have taken to make sure people in India do not suffer for a longer span of time, but people who are not living in India have faced more issues in exchanging currency,” Swati added describing the problems she faced immediately after the declaration.

-By Aarzoo Snigdha

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This is Beatrice's third year with LSU Media. In her first year she wrote for Label in both Features and News, her second year saw her take the position of Music Content Coordinator for LSU Media as well as Label Features Editor. Her third and final year with Label sees her take the position of Head of Online, Marketing and Distrubution where she hopes to maximise Label's presence on and off campus.

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