As India goes into melt down amidst Prime Minister Modi’s ban on Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes in his bid to tackle corruption and tax evasion, women have been hit the hardest.

The majority of India’s poor and rural communities deal with cash as many do not own bank accounts, and they’ve suffered greatly since Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to crack down on ‘black money’ and announced last week that all 500 and 1000 rupee notes were banned.

Gajna Devi, 60, who runs a small store in a slum in Munirka village in south Delhi, central India, said: ‘We’ve had to skip meals because we’ve got no cash. The situation has left us with nothing. This is the worst that could have happened to us.’

Gajna Devi, 60, pictured at her shop. © Cover Asia Press/ Tanzeel Ur Rehman
Gajna Devi, 60, pictured at her shop. © Cover Asia Press/ Tanzeel Ur Rehman

Gajna, a widow and main earner in her family of five, runs a small general store but has barely made any money for over seven days.

She said: ‘Our business was doing well before the ban. But ever since the currency ban, we are facing difficult times. My last Rs 500 was spent on milk and I had to buy lots of milk because the man had no change.’

‘We had no option. This is the worst phase of my life.’

Gajna earned over Rs 600 a day before the note ban but her earnings have dropped to 40-50 Rupees a day during the last seven days. ‘How can we run a house like this? There is no money for anyone to buy anything from my shop. My earnings have dropped nearly 95%. I’ve been very unwell and worried and my medicines are almost over but I do not have money to go and buy more.’

Gajna Devi shows her nearly empty medicine bottle. © Cover Asia Press/ Tanzeel Ur Rehman
Gajna Devi shows her nearly empty medicine bottle. © Cover Asia Press/ Tanzeel Ur Rehman

Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to crack down on ‘black money’ – vast piles of wealth kept hidden from the tax authorities – when he came to power in 2014.

This week he has urged the country to give him time to resolve this cash crisis, insisting the shock move to ban these notes will eventually help the country.

Shanti Devi, 50, a caretaker at a play school in South Delhi earns Rs 2,000 a month, but she’s been forced to postpone her granddaughter’s wedding in January as she fears she will not have enough cash to pay for any of the expenditure.

Shanti Devi outisde her residence. © Cover Asia Press/ Tanzeel Ur Rehman

She said: ‘The wedding will cost at least Rs 40, 000 and we’re not sure if we’ll be able to arrange valid notes by then. We’ve had no option than to postpone the wedding.’

‘I know people who haven’t even been able arrange the cremations of their loved ones, let alone marriages.’

This is terrible and insensitive that the poor is suffering like this. Why is poor suffering because of the crime done by the rich?’

Slum children studying at classes run by non-profit organisations have had an impact too.

Rekha Rekhwar, 30, a teacher for slum children in South Delhi said: ‘I had nearly 60 students in my class last month but now hardly any. Parents have no cash to send their children to school. We used to provide food every day but we’ve not been able to feed them anything since the ban as none of us have any cash. I feel so bad.’

Rekha Rekhwar, 30, teaching children at school in the slums. © Cover Asia Press/ Tanzeel Ur Rehman

Shoppers are also feeling the pressure since many shop keepers are not giving any change. Many are forcing customers to spend the equivalent of a 500 or 1000 rupee note, or they risk losing the change as they refuse to return the difference.

Gajna’s daughter, Shalu, 18, who has had to quit her beautician course as she could not pay the fee this month, said: ‘We’ve been forced to buy cheap products for Rs 500. Some shop keepers have even told us they will give only Rs 200 in return of a Rs 500. This is another level of corruption.’

Shalu pictured outside her residence in a slum. © Cover Asia Press/ Tanzeel Ur Rehman
Shalu pictured outside her residence in a slum. © Cover Asia Press/ Tanzeel Ur Rehman

Over 20 people have so far died while standing in the long queue at the banks and ATMs to withdraw and exchange their notes but the situation only appears to be worsening day by day.