It’s Not All Sunshine for Modi’s Digital India
Demonetisation has sparked quite a debate in the country. Ever since November 8, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to withdraw old denominations of Rs. 500 and 1000 from the economy, there has been an acute shortage of liquid cash. People have been queuing up at banks and ATM kiosks to get cash to sustain their day to day expenses. Against this backdrop, the Modi government has been trying hard to push cashless or low-cash transactions to tide over the crisis and also to make India a digital economy. It has been offering various incentives for making digital payments.
But all this, raises a question: Is Modi’s promises merely a political gimmick or can he deliver on his digital promises?
To get the answer, let us discuss a case of Madhya Pradesh where the push for digital transactions is going in the opposite direction.
Online booking of bus tickets costs 13% more in Madhya Pradesh!
In Madhya Pradesh, the online booking of tickets for air-conditioned private buses costs 13 per cent more than buying them at counters. The AC coach fare for travel from the state capital to Indore is Rs. 330, but when booked online, one has to pay Rs. 373, where Rs. 43 is the ‘online booking charge’. Similarly, Indore to Jabalpur journey by bus costs Rs. 1,100, but when booked online, the ticket costs Rs. 1,243.
The Madhya Pradesh state government under the aegis of Shivraj Singh Chouhan, a prominent leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party, does not have an inter-city, long-distance bus service of its own. The Madhya Pradesh Road Transportation Corporation was shut down way back in 2008.Currently, the transport services are completely run by private companies. They impose charges as per their whims and fancies.
The private companies use other platforms for facilitating online booking of tickets, those facilitators also charge a commission. This in turns makes the online bookings way costlier than doing it in traditional manner.
Indian citizens, who already pay a tax for ‘Swacch Bharat’ and continue to pay several other taxes for different services, this additional cost is surely hurting their pocket. Therefore, there is a dire need of better strategizing and planning ‘Digital India’ initiatives before rolling out any scheme for a massively populated country like ours. Or else, the entire efforts are merely going to look like a political gimmick.