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Demonetisation opens Pandora�s box

By Correspondent

TURA, Nov 21 - Turbulent Garo Hills, villages of which have had tough times in dealing with faces of militancy, have another huge problem at hand following demonetization of high value currency notes since November 8 � that of depositing money stashed away due to extortion threats by insurgents.

The Narendra Modi government�s move, which is expected to check the menace of black money, has opened a Pandora�s box for these villagers, some of whom do not trust the banking system while others have stashed away their earnings - some even buried in the ground - in fear of demands from militants.

A lot of villagers in the Garo Hills region have shied away from opening bank accounts or even depositing money due to fears that their names could be passed on to the wrong hands.

Villagers in Garo Hills are known for extensive cultivation of betel nut, rubber and cashew nut among others, accounting for a major chunk of the economy of Garo Hills.

For the matter, even agricultural incomes are not declared, despite the fact that it is tax free. Thus, villagers tend to conceal their income and though it is legally acquired, the money does not have a legal standing.

�Militants have threatened villagers for small amounts, sometimes even less than a lakh. There are many who in fear have not deposited money in banks. Many now face the dilemma of how to push their hard earned money into banks, an institution they do not trust,� said NR Marak, a resident of Tura in West Garo Hills.

�There are also many who do not understand the banking system, are uneducated and as such have hid their life�s earnings. Some others have not even opened bank accounts though they have huge sums of money (some in crores) and have no clue as to what to do with the money now,� said S Ch Marak, another resident.

�Green-eyed neighbours have been observing the agricultural incomes of some hard working villagers. There were even murders because of it - the cases of Mrigre, Damal Asim being two prime examples. This is why most fear to deposit or even talk about their money in the open. Most fear militants might ask them for their hard earned money and they feel if they deposit the same in banks, a leak could ruin their lives,� said activist Jaynie N Sangma from Tura.

Incidentally, another interesting fact that was brought out was that some people from the older generation buried money in the ground. Similar stories have emerged from other parts of Garo Hills as well.

�Some of them have died with the money still being buried in the ground. That money has not benefited anyone and as such was just waste,� said Jaynie.

CSWO president Agnes Kharshiing felt the matter had to be worked out by the villagers who had the money, explain its source and deposit to new accounts if required. However, given the current state of affairs, deposits into accounts could pose a huge problem for those that do so now.

�It is a very difficult scenario and unless they put the money into the banking system, all their hard earned money will go waste. It is such a pity that the situation has come down to such a pass,� said Agnes.

For now, demonetization is set to ruffle a lot of feathers, including of those that have extorted money earlier as they struggle to find ways to either convert or deposit it.

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Demonetisation opens Pandora�s box

TURA, Nov 21 - Turbulent Garo Hills, villages of which have had tough times in dealing with faces of militancy, have another huge problem at hand following demonetization of high value currency notes since November 8 � that of depositing money stashed away due to extortion threats by insurgents.

The Narendra Modi government�s move, which is expected to check the menace of black money, has opened a Pandora�s box for these villagers, some of whom do not trust the banking system while others have stashed away their earnings - some even buried in the ground - in fear of demands from militants.

A lot of villagers in the Garo Hills region have shied away from opening bank accounts or even depositing money due to fears that their names could be passed on to the wrong hands.

Villagers in Garo Hills are known for extensive cultivation of betel nut, rubber and cashew nut among others, accounting for a major chunk of the economy of Garo Hills.

For the matter, even agricultural incomes are not declared, despite the fact that it is tax free. Thus, villagers tend to conceal their income and though it is legally acquired, the money does not have a legal standing.

�Militants have threatened villagers for small amounts, sometimes even less than a lakh. There are many who in fear have not deposited money in banks. Many now face the dilemma of how to push their hard earned money into banks, an institution they do not trust,� said NR Marak, a resident of Tura in West Garo Hills.

�There are also many who do not understand the banking system, are uneducated and as such have hid their life�s earnings. Some others have not even opened bank accounts though they have huge sums of money (some in crores) and have no clue as to what to do with the money now,� said S Ch Marak, another resident.

�Green-eyed neighbours have been observing the agricultural incomes of some hard working villagers. There were even murders because of it - the cases of Mrigre, Damal Asim being two prime examples. This is why most fear to deposit or even talk about their money in the open. Most fear militants might ask them for their hard earned money and they feel if they deposit the same in banks, a leak could ruin their lives,� said activist Jaynie N Sangma from Tura.

Incidentally, another interesting fact that was brought out was that some people from the older generation buried money in the ground. Similar stories have emerged from other parts of Garo Hills as well.

�Some of them have died with the money still being buried in the ground. That money has not benefited anyone and as such was just waste,� said Jaynie.

CSWO president Agnes Kharshiing felt the matter had to be worked out by the villagers who had the money, explain its source and deposit to new accounts if required. However, given the current state of affairs, deposits into accounts could pose a huge problem for those that do so now.

�It is a very difficult scenario and unless they put the money into the banking system, all their hard earned money will go waste. It is such a pity that the situation has come down to such a pass,� said Agnes.

For now, demonetization is set to ruffle a lot of feathers, including of those that have extorted money earlier as they struggle to find ways to either convert or deposit it.