MUMBAI | LUCKNOW: Ajay Pandey, a Lucknow-based photographer who runs a micro ATM within the premises of his small studio in the city, is a distraught man. Almost six days of internet suspension in the state capital from December 19 has left a huge dent in his monthly commissions from falling financial transactions.
“It so happened that my broadband connection was also snapped during the same time due to some wiring issues but coupled with the unavailability of mobile internet during the time, the activity suffered and we also had to incur a huge loss,” Pandey told ET.
Pandey is not the only one worried. Internet shutdowns in pockets of Uttar Pradesh and Assam in December due to protests over the Citizenship Amendment Act has taken a toll on these states’ migrant worker population, students, local merchants and business correspondents who use National Payment Corporation of India’s (NPCI) Aadhaar-enabled Payment Systems for daily banking needs, local stakeholders, payment companies and bankers told ET.
The latest NPCI data released on Tuesday reflects the contraction. A total of 19 crore transactions worth Rs 9,300 crore were recorded on the channel which is significantly lower than the 25% growth in transactions value the channel recorded between November and December 2018. It also marks a 5% contraction compared to the value of transactions recorded in November and a downturn of nearly 14% from the value of transactions recorded in the festive season of October.
“The contraction in growth is predominantly because of the internet shutdowns. We saw in the areas where the internet was shut down, the transactions contracting by nearly 40% while in peripheral areas, the impact was in the range of 20-25%,” said Anand Srivastava, founder of financial services provider Beam, told ET.
“These services are availed by the PMJDY customers to get subsidies through DBT which are life-critical for these bottom of the pyramid customers. We are in the process of sending representations to both the National Payments Corporation of India and the Unique Identification Authority of India, as well as ministries, regarding the situation,” said Srivastava, who is also a senior member of Business Correspondent Federation of India.
Internet in Lucknow had remained suspended from the night of December 19 when the city saw protests turn violent, until the evening of December 25. More districts witnessed the shutdown a day after on December 20 when following the Friday prayers violence erupted in more than 12 districts across the state, including in Meerut, Kanpur, Bulandshahr, Firozabad, among others. Suspended for varying length of time during the week that followed, the service was once more snapped across 21 districts ahead of the Friday prayers next week, as a precautionary measure.
Since the beginning of the fiscal year, banks have processed nearly Rs 85,000 crore worth of transactions through the channel. It is estimated that over 30% of the users of the platform are from the states of Uttar Pradesh and Assam, another state which has experienced heavy internet disruptions owing to police control against the riots against CAA.
While the channel has not seen as widespread acceptance as NPCI’s popular Unified Payment Interface (UPI) platform where nearly Rs 2 lakh crore worth of transactions take place monthly, it is integral for small-town and rural bank customers.