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I'll do whatever the govt tells me to do, says 80-year-old who became the face of Modi's shock reform

Author: Rajesh Dutt
Publication:  The Economic Times
Date: November 6, 2017
URL:    https://m.economictimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/ill-do-whatever-the-govt-tells-me-to-do-says-80-year-old-who-became-the-face-of-modis-shock-reform/amp_articleshow/61532259.cms

Demonetisation became synonymous with helplessness and endless wait. If the long-winding ATM queue became a symbol of note ban, Nand Lal became its face. The 80-year-old retired army man broke down after waiting for four hours at a State Bank of India branch in Gurugram for not having got his cash. The picture of old, wrinkled crying Lal went viral, reflecting the helplessness of the poor who were hit the hardest by note ban.

 The crying Lal also became an icon for the critics of demonetisation who countered the government's claim that note ban targeted the rich who had hoarded unaccounted cash.

 Lal captured the immediate impact of note ban. ET Online met him to know how he felt about it a year later.

One year of demonetisation: Read how India is holding up in our special coverage

 Lal lives alone in a rented 8x10 room in Bhim Nagar area of Old Gurgaon. His small room contains his few belongings-a trunk, a small bed, a plastic chair, a bucket, an ashtray, some water bottles and one portrait of god Ganesha. He came to India from Dera Ghazi Khan in Pakistan after Partition. He retired from army in 1991. He has an adopted daughter who is married and visits him occasionally. He takes pride in having served his country. He is hard of hearing and understands only when a question is repeated several times.

 What problem did he face in getting cash last year after demonetisation?

 Lal says he stood in the queue for long hours yet the bank refused to give him the amount of money he wanted. He says he needed the money to pay his rent and the monthly salary to his maid. Why did he break down? He says while he was waiting outside the bank, someone pushed him and a woman stepped on his foot. "Apart from this, I didn't face much problem," he says.

 Lal says initially he faced difficulty in getting cash but soon everything got smooth. "Now I send my maid to the bank and she withdraws money on my behalf and hands it over to me," the army veteran says.

 Lal says now he is happy with demonetisation. But was it a right decision? Lal says he would go with whatever the government decides as he has been a serviceman. A staunch nationalist, he says he has served in the army for 20 years and would abide by every decision of the government.

 "Whatever the government does, it is for the betterment of the country," the old and frail ex-soldier says with a wide grin. "I am a soldier, and I will obey whatever decision the government will take," he concludes.

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