Despite cash in circulation skyrocketing in India, Dehli Metro decided to maintain its cashless stance in some of its most popular stations ahead of reopening on Monday 7th September. The mode of transport was back on track after being out of service for five months due to the covid-19 pandemic. While many rejoiced, they were soon met with severe disruptions: the cashless Metro stations were struggling to support cashless payments.
Dehli Metro made the decision to make 10 of their most popular Metro stations cashless in 2017, stating the reason was “to encourage people to embrace the Government’s vision of a cashless economy." According to Business Standard, many Metro users reportedly “faced problems buying new smartcards or getting them recharged through cashless modes due to network issues.”
The reported problems varied from lengthy payment processes or being charged for top-ups on their Metro smartcards that would then fail to appear on the card itself. The cashless issues were so problematic, Metro user Rohani Bansal ended up abandoning the service for alternative transport methods:
”Money got deducted from my account, but the transaction failed. I waited for 15-20 minutes at Central Secretariat metro station before I left the premises and took an auto to work.”
Fellow Metro user Parvez Ahmed explained to Business Standard “I waited for about 10-11 minutes before I could successfully make the payment.” Luckily for Ahmed, there were significantly fewer commuters taking the Metro than usual due to coronavirus related concerns, however, he explained that “had it been a normal day, it would have led to chaos.”
The reliance on cashless transactions since the outbreak of the coronavirus has been fuelled by widespread myths surrounding the safety of cash. Those with a vested interest in cashless societies will be quick to deny it, but cashless network failures and technical issues have highlighted the pitfalls of a dependence on digital technologies, and the associated cost to consumers of what happens when we remove cash as a payment option.