India’s first cashless township conducts all transactions digitally
Ishita Mishra | October 25, 2017 | Bharuch
Bindu Ben, 41, is a famer by profession. She runs a grocery store in the Gujarat Narmada Fertilizer Corporation (GNFC) township in Bharuch district and transacts only through Paytm – an electronic payment service. She is famous in her village, which is 10 km away from the township, for promoting digital transactions and teaching people on how to go cashless.
Even in the GNFC township, when people face any problems while making a digital transaction, Bindu Ben comes to their rescue. So when Anand Kumar from Ahmedabad visited his relative’s place at the township and got stuck while transferring money through e-wallet for the chocolates he purchased, the shopkeeper immediately called Bindu Ben to fix the issue.
Kumar was surprised by the quick response of the village woman who has studied till the eighth class. Others in the shop were amazed too. But Bindu Ben is quite accustomed to eliciting such reactions.
“Batwa nai lena padta hai. Koi nuksan nai hota hai. Dukandar aapke chhutte nai rakh pata hai, ya 1-2-5 rupaye ke badle toffee nahi pakdata hai. Or sara dhandha ek number ka rehta hai (You need not carry a wallet. There is no loss. The shopkeeper is not able to keep the change. He won’t be able to pass you toffees for Rs 1, 2 or 5. The whole transaction is done in white money),” says Bindu Ben, listing out benefits of going cashless.
She is not an exception, even a five-year-old kid in the GNFC township knows how to make electronic payments. As a result, GNFC has been dubbed as India’s first integrated township where 100 percent transactions are done through cashless modes. Be it a paan or a pencil, laundry or cycle repair, school fees or jewellery, all sales and purchases are done digitally through PoS (point of sale) machines and e-wallet apps like BHIM, Paytm and UPI.
The township has a population of some 5,000 and witnesses around 10,000 visitors regularly. Facilities like shopping centres, restaurants, hospitals and schools are available within the campus.
Efforts to make the township a cashless place started soon after PM Narendra Modi announced demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on November 8, 2016. “People at the township faced similar hardships as others after demonetisation; there was no money, neither in hands nor in the only ATM in the campus. But we decided not to make a hue and cry about the government’s initiative and make most of it,” says RS Joshi, senior manager, GNFC.
Applauding the efforts of Bindu Ben, he says, “If a class 8 pass woman from a village can learn to make digital transactions, why can’t we?”
The initiative to make the township cashless has been so successful that NITI Aayog has recommended its replication in other parts of the country. The Gujarat government too has decided to adopt the GNFC cashless model in 180 townships across the state, out of which 35 are located in Bharuch district. The project has been in effect since March 2017.
On April 14, 2017, Modi launched from Nagpur the less-cash township model, developed by the GNFC, across 81 townships in 12 states. Out of 81 townships, 56 are in Gujarat, whereas 25 in other 11 states including Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi, Chhattisgarh and Bihar. These 81 townships are of central public sector enterprises such as ONGC, IOC, NTPC, SAIL, NMDC and BHEL, of the central government entities such as CRPF and BSF, and of private sector townships like Reliance, Essar, Adani group, Aditya Birla group and Welspun.
Rajiv Kumar Gupta, MD, GNFC, says that this has been achieved through sustained mass campaign and engagement of all stakeholders in the training of digital transactions. The GNFC management has also established the required infrastructure and necessary business process engineering for this purpose.
“Even the trucks carrying raw materials and finished products like fertilisers and chemicals to and fro from a particular company have been mandated to use debit cards for the payment of toll tax. Around 500 vehicles which go in and out of the GNFC plant remain cashless on national and state highways for toll purposes. In a year, 1.8 lakh trips by trucks and other vehicles were carried out by using cashless transactions, which was a record,” RS Joshi of GNFC says.
GNFC, a state PSU, is also the first fertiliser company in the country to go cashless. Through more than 2,000 retail outlets, GNFC has so far sold 18.10 lakh bags of fertilisers to 1.55 lakh farmers through cashless transactions across the country.
As per a PwC study of GNFC’s cashless initiatives for over 96 percent of farmers, cashless transactions resulted in cost savings arising from fewer trips to fertiliser shops and discounts on cashless transactions. Electronic transactions resulted in better money management for over 90 percent farmers. It further revealed that 92.3 percent of households believed there was a significant reduction in the use of cash resulting in more convenience when transacting for daily activities.
It has not only benefitted GNFC and its employees but going cashless has become an effective tool for parents to have a better control over their children’s expenses. Around 98 percent of the households say they saved time on cashless transactions.
Anita, mother of 11-year-old Shikhar, explains how she uses a special card available at the GNFC to control her son’s unnecessary expenses. “Initially, I was worried to share the password of my ATM with my son as he might misuse it. Giving him a phone to use the e-wallet was also not appropriate at his age. Then I came to know about the special card introduced by GNFC officials in which we can transfer cash as we do in Paytm. Now I transfer only Rs 25 if I send my kid to buy half litre milk. He can’t misuse it and even if the card is lost, I am losing only Rs 25,” says Anita.
Even the temples at the GNFC township don’t accept cash. Mahesh Joshi has completed his MA in Sanskrit and works as a pujari at the temple of the township. Flowers and prasad at the temple can be purchased only through cashless modes.
Showing the mobile wallet of Lord Krishna at his temple in which devotees donate money, he says, “Look, Mr Joshi has donated Rs 101 today evening. Guptaji donated Rs 500 last week. Things are so transparent here... The way God must be wanting!”
(The article appears in the October 31, 2017 issue)
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