note demonetisation

In one Chennai market, demonetisation has forced tonnes of flowers to be dumped

The vendors of Koyambedu market have been severely hurt by the decision invalidating high-value currency notes.

At 3 pm on a Sunday afternoon, K Paneerselvam sat on a stone platform at Chennai’s Koyambedu market amidst a heap of unsold flowers that were slowly beginning to wear a rather wilted look. At regular intervals, he sprinkled water on yellow marigolds and pink chrysanthemums as their petals turned brown.

But with barely any customers coming his way, he knew that he would have to throw away mounds of already-perishing flowers by the next morning.

Hardly a week after the central government announced that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes would not be legal tender on November 9, the wholesale goods market in this area of Chennai has seen a drastic fall in sales, especially in flowers. The cash squeeze caused by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement on Tuesday has made it very difficult for flower sellers to provide change for higher denomination notes, losing customers in the process. As a result, the dustbin in the market compound is filled to the brim with wilted flowers. There are also piles of cast-away flowers in piles by the footpath.

Nearly 360 tonnes of wilted flowers – roses, lilies, asters and jasmine, among them – were dumped in Koyambedu in the past week, reported The Times of India.
Tonnes of flowers going to waste.
Tonnes of flowers going to waste.

Plummeting prices

“Last week, I was selling one kilogram of marigold for Rs 60,” said Paneerselvam, whose business has shrunk by 75% since Wednesday. “Now people hardly have money in hand. So I am ready to sell it at Rs. 10 per kilogram, just to earn something by the day’s end.”

Some of the flower sellers were even accepting the demonetised currency notes. S Ravichandran, the owner of a garland shop in the market place, said that if he did not accept the old notes, he would have absolutely no sales.

“If you sit by my shop for one hour, you will see the number of people who hand us the old notes of Rs 500s and Rs 1,000,” said Ravichandran. “And they don’t want us to give back change in the old notes.”

Ravichandran is still accepting old notes.
Ravichandran is still accepting old notes.

Garlands that are usually sold for the price of Rs 500 have now been slashed down to Rs 200, he said. Besides, Ravichandran’s customers were offering the new Rs 2000 notes for garlands valued at Rs 200. Providing change for a note of this large denomination was proving to be a big hassle, especially when customers were demanding change only in Rs 100 notes.

“I also have to give my shop attendants their daily wage,” said Ravichandran. “But on days when we don’t get to many customers, I need to either put a temporary hold on the flowers that I have ordered, or a hold on the wages of my employees.”

The Koyambedu flower market.
The Koyambedu flower market.

Mounds of waste

In the backyard of the market place, K Murugan and P Dasarathan sat under a small makeshift tent with about a dozen baskets, each with 40 kilograms of marigolds. These flowers had arrived from Bangalore at 3 am but had remained unsold all day.

“If we cannot sell them by tomorrow morning, we will have to dump all of them,” said Murugan. “We will also have to bear the cost of all of these flowers.”

Like many of the wholesale flower vendors in the Koyambedu market, Murugan and Dasarathan pay a deposit of around Rs one lakh to the farmers every season, and receive 10% of whatever sales they have made every day as commission. The rest of the money is paid to the farmers.

But now with the cash squeeze, most of their flowers lie unsold.

“We are accepting old notes only from our regular customers,” said Dasarathan. “If we take old notes from others and give them change, then we have none to give our regular customers. They may not come to our shop tomorrow.”

Dasarathan's unsold flowers.
Dasarathan's unsold flowers.

CK Muthuraman, another flower shop owner, is worried about how he will pay his next installment of Rs one lakh to the farmers who provide him goods – since it will not be easy to withdraw such a large amount of cash from the bank in the next one month.

“It is with this advance money that the farmers buy seeds and pay their labourers,” said Muthuraman. ” Now how can I give the money to them? How will the labourers get money?”

But Muthuraman had more immediate problems. Scores of packets of wilting flower petals were stacked up in his shop, with no buyers.

As his assistants stared at these packets gloomily, one of them lightened up suddenly and laughed, “We should now send all these flowers to Modi. Let him have them.”

Muthuraman's unsold packets of flower petals.
Muthuraman's unsold packets of flower petals.
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.

Play

During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.