note demonetisation

Bankers are banking on indelible ink to ease their high stress levels

Not all banks have managed to procure the special ink yet, but those that started using it on Thursday are hopeful it will cut down the long queues.

On Thursday morning, men and women emerged from UCO Bank’s Fort branch in Mumbai with new bank notes in their pockets and a fresh mark of black ink on their index fingers. The queue of men and women outside the bank filled up most of the footpath on the block, but the bank staff indoors looked unperturbed.

“Now that we are being able to use ink, things are going to start getting better,” said a senior staff member of the bank, while supervising his colleague inspect a young woman’s identity card and paint a thin line of indelible ink on her fingernail. “There is no doubt about it – the ink will definitely help reduce the crowds outside all the banks from tomorrow.”

In Crawford Market area, meanwhile, a security guard from the first-floor branch of Syndicate Bank repeatedly shouted to the queue of people snaking down the stairs and onto the pavement: “No one with ink on their finger will be allowed to enter the bank again, please take note!”

Two days after the central government issued a notification asking all banks to mark citizens with election-style indelible ink for the over-the-counter exchange of Rs 4,500, only a handful of banks in the country’s financial capital were able to procure 5 ml bottles of ink for the purpose. While these banks were distinctly relieved, other banks expecting to receive their bottles of ink by Friday or Monday seemed confident that the move would help alleviate their high stress levels.

No cheating

Ever since the central government made the sudden move of demonetising Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on November 9, citizens across the country have had limited means of accessing their own legitimate cash. Many ATM machines are yet to be recalibrated to be able to dispense new Rs 2,000 notes. People with bank accounts have been able to deposit their old notes in their accounts and withdraw up to Rs 20,000 a week in new currency. But in the past week, almost everywhere, queues for cash deposit and withdrawal have been shorter than the queues for exchanging money over the counter.

In the first week of demonetisation, the government was not clear about whether citizens were allowed to exchange old notes worth Rs 4,000 (raised to Rs 4,500 and now reduced to Rs 2,000) for new notes just once, or multiple times. Suspecting, however, that black money hoarders could easily exchange currency multiple times over the counter, the government issued the order about using indelible ink.

The ink, typically used to prevent repeat-voting during elections, is meant to ensure that the same citizens do not keep visiting banks to exchange large amounts of currency on the same identity card. However, access to the small bottles of indelible ink, has proved to be as much of a logistical difficulty as demonetisation itself. There is currently just one company in India recognised as a manufacturer of indelible ink – Mysore Paints and Varnish Ltd run by the Karnataka government – and the firm is struggling to meet the sudden demand for ink.

Making a difference

“We will get our bottles of ink only on Monday, but at least then we will be able to prevent people from taking new notes repeatedly,” said a representative from Crawford Market’s Federal Bank in Mumbai. “This is a good initiative.”

Citizens seated in line outside a bank at Crawford Market, Mumbai.
Citizens seated in line outside a bank at Crawford Market, Mumbai.

Down the road, a small branch of ICICI Bank began applying indelible ink to citizens on Thursday, and claimed it was already proving to be of help. “There were some people who would try to get notes exchanged two or three times a day,” said a staff member manning the crowded to the bank. With long queues of customers to attend to, bank clerks were not always able to cross-check repeat exchanges through identity card numbers. “But the ink on the finger is making it easier for us.”

Most citizens, meanwhile, seemed indifferent to the ink being applied on their fingers. “Once I exchange Rs 4,000 it will last me for a good two weeks, so I am not worried,” said Mukhtar Kureshi, a butcher who was in line for money outside a bank in Bandra, Mumbai. “I am happy if this brings back all the black money that the rich hoard.”

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People who fall through the gaps in road safety campaigns

Helmet and road safety campaigns might have been neglecting a sizeable chunk of the public at risk.

City police, across the country, have been running a long-drawn campaign on helmet safety. In a recent initiative by the Bengaluru Police, a cop dressed-up as ‘Lord Ganesha’ offered helmets and roses to two-wheeler riders. Earlier this year, a 12ft high and 9ft wide helmet was installed in Kota as a memorial to the victims of road accidents. As for the social media leg of the campaign, the Mumbai Police made a pop-culture reference to drive the message of road safety through their Twitter handle.

But, just for the sake of conversation, how much safety do helmets provide anyway?

Lack of physical protections put two-wheeler riders at high risk on the road. According to a recent report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 1.25 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes. Nearly half of those dying on the world’s roads are ‘vulnerable road users’ – pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. According to the Indian transport ministry, about 28 two-wheeler riders died daily on Indian roads in 2016 for not wearing helmets.

The WHO states that wearing a motorcycle helmet correctly can reduce the risk of death by almost 40% and the risk of severe injury by over 70%. The components of a helmet are designed to reduce impact of a force collision to the head. A rigid outer shell distributes the impact over a large surface area, while the soft lining absorbs the impact.

However, getting two-wheeler riders to wear protective headgear has always been an uphill battle, one that has intensified through the years owing to the lives lost due on the road. Communication tactics are generating awareness about the consequences of riding without a helmet and changing behaviour that the law couldn’t on its own. But amidst all the tag-lines, slogans and get-ups that reach out to the rider, the safety of the one on the passenger seat is being ignored.

Pillion rider safety has always been second in priority. While several state governments are making helmets for pillion riders mandatory, the lack of awareness about its importance runs deep. In Mumbai itself, only 1% of the 20 lakh pillion riders wear helmets. There seems to be this perception that while two-wheeler riders are safer wearing a helmet, their passengers don’t necessarily need one. Statistics prove otherwise. For instance, in Hyderabad, the Cyberabad traffic police reported that 1 of every 3 two-wheeler deaths was that of a pillion rider. DGP Chander, Goa, stressed that 71% of fatalities in road accidents in 2017 were of two-wheeler rider and pillion riders of which 66% deaths were due to head injury.

Despite the alarming statistics, pillion riders, who are as vulnerable as front riders to head-injuries, have never been the focus of helmet awareness and safety drives. To fill-up that communication gap, Reliance General Insurance has engineered a campaign, titled #FaceThePace, that focusses solely on pillion rider safety. The campaign film tells a relatable story of a father taking his son for cricket practice on a motorbike. It then uses cricket to bring our attention to a simple flaw in the way we think about pillion rider safety – using a helmet to play a sport makes sense, but somehow, protecting your head while riding on a two-wheeler isn’t considered.

This road safety initiative by Reliance General Insurance has taken the lead in addressing the helmet issue as a whole — pillion or front, helmets are crucial for two-wheeler riders. The film ensures that we realise how selective our worry about head injury is by comparing the statistics of children deaths due to road accidents to fatal accidents on a cricket ground. Message delivered. Watch the video to see how the story pans out.


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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Reliance General Insurance and not by the Scroll editorial team.