Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday asked the nation to switch to cashless transactions to a significant extent, not just to overcome the passing cash crunch arising from the ban on old Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes, but to help the nation emerge out of grip of corruption and black money that have so far held back its progress.
Addressing the nation in his monthly `Man Ki Baath' programme on the All India Radio, the prime minister urged the nation's small traders and daily wage earners to switch to digital payment channels, as a cash crunch following the government's surprise ban on high-value bank notes drags on.
Modi has exhorted young people to become part of a cashless society in order to rid the country of the menace of black money and fake money.
He asked the younger generation to find time to educate the elderly and poor households on handling the mobile phone and related applications that will facilitate cashless transactions.
''You must devote half an hour, one hour or two hours daily to educate at least 10 families about what this technology is, how this technology is to be used, how to download the Apps of your banks, how to spend money from one's account, how to make payment to shopkeepers. Also teach the shopkeepers to conduct their business with this technology. You have to voluntarily lend your leadership to this great campaign, this Maha Abhiyan, to create a 'cashless society', to eradicate corruption from our country, to abolish the scourge of black money and to help people in overcoming their difficulties and problems,'' Modi said.
''Once you teach the poor people about the usage of Rupay card, they will shower their blessings upon you. When you teach the common citizen these new techniques, he will probably become free from all his worries. And if all the young people of India join in this great endeavour, I don't think it will take much time. We can emerge and take our place in the world as a new modern India within a period of one month.''
''I invite you – come, do not just support this transformation but become one of its leading soldiers and ensure that we achieve the desired transformation. We shall carry forward this struggle to free our country from the evils of corruption and black money,'' said.
Modi also cited the example of several less developed countries where the youth have changed the nation's life. Kenya, he said, ''set up a mobile based system M-PESA, adopted appropriate technology which was named M-PESA and today in Kenya, total business is ready to shift to this system. That country has brought about a big revolution.''
Modi said the government understands that millions have been affected by the ban on Rs500 and Rs1000, but defended the action, saying that the bank-note ban announced on 8 November is aimed at cracking down on corruption, people with unaccounted wealth, and counterfeiting of notes.
"I want to tell my small merchant brothers and sisters, this is the chance for you to enter the digital world," Modi said speaking in Hindi, urging them to use mobile banking applications and credit-card swipe machines.
"It's correct that a 100 per cent cashless society is not possible. But why don't we make a beginning for a less-cash society in India?," Modi asked, adding, "We can gradually move from a less-cash society to a cashless society."
More than 90 per cent of consumer purchases in India are transacted in cash, Credit Suisse estimates. While a smartphone boom and falling mobile data prices have led to a surge in digital payments in recent years, the base still remains low.
The cash crunch, however, has its brighter side also, Modi said, pointing to a report about a small village called Dhekiajulli in Assam, where four tea garden workers used their weekly wages, received in Rs2,000 denominations to make purchases of household items jointly, thereby avoiding the need for small change.
"These are times in which the educated and business people have to step in and play a proactive role. I request Rotary clubs and Lions to take the lead by making their members agree for e transactions. Modi also called upon organisations like the National Cade Corps and the National Social Service, to come forward to help promote the digital economy."