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A discussion for APN News, hosted by India Legal Editor-in-Chief Inderjit Badhwar, reveals that the people of Ujhani in UP are extremely angry over demonetisation and Akhilesh is a hero

A grain-market centre and the heart-beat of the surrounding countryside in Uttar Pradesh, Ujhani, is simmering with discontent and anger over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to make Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes invalid. And they have very definite reasons.

Ujhani (population 1.5 lakh) is a brisk business centre where farmers sell their produce and buy the wares they need in turn. It is also known for its clothes and embroidery. It is considered the ‘crown jewel’ of the neighbourhood.

The head of the traders’ association puts the finger on the real issue. The problems created by the Rs 2,000 note. “People buy goods worth Rs 100 or Rs 200 and give me Rs 2,000 note. How am I going to return them the Rs 1,900 or Rs 1,800?”

He goes onto say that demonetisation has wreaked havoc with the farmers, the small businessmen and the poor. Another shopkeeper says that he had to sell his stock of potatoes worth Rs 50,000 for Rs 5,000, and that he is ruined.

However, there are others who feel that demonetisation is indeed painful, but would turn out to be a positive reform in the long run. But even the supporters felt that the systems should have been kept in place before demonetisation was implemented.

For one of them, the main objection to demonetisation is that a majority of the poor people—according to the townsfolk, 80 per cent are poor—is illiterate and that it was unrealistic of Modi to expect people to take to digital transactions.

A young woman interjects saying that when there is no regular supply of electricity, how is it possible even to think of Digital India and Make in India.

“When people do not have enough to fill their belly, how do you expect them to buy a smartphone costing Rs 10,000,” asks another young woman.

The anger is clear and loud. “Prime Minister has failed. People will reject the BJP. The poor have been devastated,” says one of Ujhani’s citizens.

On the issue of providing safety and security to women, a lady feels that in a country where women are not respected, it could not be called a good country. “I am not happy. When little girls are raped, when there is no respect for women…” Asked if it is the fault of the central government that women are being raped in the state, she says that the central government can at least put in place some stringent laws regarding crimes against women. 

UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav enjoys considerable support among the town’s gentry, who gather to participate in a discussion for APN News (TV news channel). The discussion was hosted by India Legal Editor-in-Chief Inderjit Badhwar. India Legal is a sister concern of APN News. One of them points out that Akhilesh Yadav has built a hospital in the town and created a road to Bareilly which has reduced travelling time to the big town by an hour.

But true to the democratic ethos of the country, the counter-voices can also be heard. “The hospital is there but it has no amenities,” says a lady. She also points that no salaries have been paid to the staff for three months. Her son is an employee of the place.

A young student expresses concern over the disappearance of the JNU student Najeeb Ahmed and wonders how it would affect the trust and confidence of small-town folks to seek admission in a central university like JNU and Jamia Millia Islamia, both in Delhi.

Lead picture: A grab of the video on the discussion conducted by APN News in Ujhani, UP

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