Courtesy HindustanTimes

Almost a month later, Veena Rani is still trying to come to terms with her husband’s death while standing in a bank queue, trying to deposit his life savings of Rs 48,000 in old notes. “Ab toh bank ke line main lagne se dar lagta hai (I am now scared of standing in a bank queue),” Veena, 48, whose husband, Satish, fainted and died while waiting outside a bank for more than six hours on November 21.

A 49-year-old vegetable dealer and resident of south-west Delhi’s Uttam Nagar, Veena had gone to Oriental Bank of Commerce at 8 a.m. to deposit the money. He fainted around 2 pm and was rushed to a local hospital where he was declared brought dead.

The cause of death was heart failure, neighbours said. Veena hasn’t even collected the postmortem report yet. For several days after Satish’s sudden death, Veena was left not knowing what to do with the cash, which was in old notes of Rs 500.

The November 8 decision by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to declare the Rs 1000 and Rs 500 notes illegal tender, and replace them with new Rs 2000 and Rs 500 notes, has led to more than 40 days of sustained cash chaos in India. On several occasions, it has even taken a tragic turn, like in Satish’s case. An estimated 100 people across India are said to have died as a direct result of the demonetization drive aimed at curbing black money. This has prompted critics to allege that the scheme has ended up burdening the poor while making little impact on its primary targets.

“My life fell apart after Satish died,” said Veena. “Suddenly, I am all alone…. I don’t have children and my parents died before my marriage. I have a mother-in-law. But she is very old and lives in Haryana.”

She could think of nobody who could stand in a queue on her behalf to deposit her husband’s savings. She cannot stand for long hours as she suffers from joint pains.

The couple moved from Haryana 13 years ago and lived in a one-room rented flat. November 21 was the first time her husband had gone to stand in a bank queue, Veena said.

“He knew there would be a large crowd at the bank. He took a day’s leave from work and went early morning. Everything seemed fine. He drank tea and had a light breakfast before starting from home at 7.45am. A few hours later, a police official informed me that my husband was dead,” she recalled.

After Kumar’s death, Veena went to stay with her mother-in-law. For over 20 days, she carried Rs 48,000 cash with her, a bitter reminder of how her husband had died.

Finally, her estranged elder brother, Chander Bhan (54), offered to help her. She had got back in touch with him only after her husband’s death.

Bhan, a resident of central Delhi’s Paharganj, went to Haryana to meet Veena. He offered to deposit the cash in his account in Delhi. “Veena is my younger sister. I didn’t want her to go and stand in a bank queue. But something needed to be done about the money, since that was all Veena is left with now. So I took the cash and deposited it in my account . When Veena returns, I’ll give it to her,” said Bhan, who works in Sadar Bazar.

Veena feels that her husband would be alive if not for demonetisation. She returned from Haryana to stay with her brother. “After his death, I have no choice but to work. I do not want to be a burden on anyone,” said Veena.

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