By Gajanan Khergamker

At the call of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi for demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on November 8th 2016, Union Territory Daman’s most unassuming, unsung heroes, hurtled in a race against time to meet the December 31st 2016 target laid down by the government.
Almost all of Daman’s common, shop-keepers, fruit-sellers, modest middle-class families even school-going children rose to the occasion. Interestingly, even as the illiterate struggled despite their best of intentions, to figure out the way ahead in the cashless scenario, it were the school-teachers armed with Generation Next who rose to the occasion.

Thousands of children bolstered with a basic training on e-transfers and cashless transacting, went door to door across Daman training the poor trader, the illiterate feriwala, the uneduca-ted chaiwala, the technologically-challenged elderly and the uninitiated in middle-class families to make the transition from a Cash-Dependent to a Cashless India.

And, their efforts, within merely a month, paid rich dividends. In the very first month, following the Indian PM’s call, all electricity consumers in Daman dumped the cash route and made payments through online modes only. It was a 100 per cent success: and, a success not just of a Union Territory to go Cashless. It was the success of a young India: An India that is being closely watched by the entire world.  An India that is making a sincere attempt to cleanse itself of black money, dubious business and an associated image across the world. And, it was a matter of pride.

Even as ‘financial experts’ debated endlessly over the efficacy and viability of the PM’s call for demonetisation on National TV and a hapless Opposition wasted valuable national resources by adjourning session after session only to spite the well-meant move, it were the children who marched their way towards achieving a record of sorts. And, finally, made their mark in history.

In the last month of the year, when school would come to a much-awaited halt leading into a Christmas vacation and a New Year’s Eve, Daman’s young opted for national duty. Students of the 10th, 11th and 12th Standards, seniors of their lot, went trudging to schools-turned-makeshift-training centres led by their equally enthusiastic school teachers where they were trained in e-transactions; how to use Paytm, Debit and Credit Cards; e-Wallets and more, all towards making India use as less cash as possible.

Once the initial fears were tackled, all of Daman converged to celebrate a well-earned success. So, on Daman Liberation Day, December 19th 2016, the Union Territory’s administration proudly announced that Daman had turned into India’s first Cashless region.

Vendors were taught to use mobile applications, cashless transactions by student groups. Each student group of four to five students had a target of 200 to 300 people to ‘educate’ on the issue. Students from Std 10th to Std 12th were given special areas earmarked for the task and regularly checked by class teachers. And, all of Daman was involved in the unique experiment.

In Daman, the Tandels, Mavs, Parikhs, Shabbirs and D’Cruzs, across communal lines, have shed their personal bias, even religious differences, in favour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for demonetisation. Led by its young, Daman has dealt the first blow to black money, notched legendary success in its Dash ahead and stood tall to show the rest of India the way ahead.

Minor Feet, Major Feat
By Manu Shrivastava | DraftCraft

The old adage ‘Children are like wet clay and whatever falls on them leaves an impression’ may not apply to the handful of school children in the small Indian Union Territory of Daman. For, it is this lot of children that brought Daman on the national and international radars, impressing upon the nation and the world that children may be impressionable but they certainly can leave a mark!

Cut to December last

The wintry month was progressing much in the same way as every other year. The skies were clear, spotlessly blue. The sea displayed the usual calm at that time of the year, glittering away under the ‘cold’ sun. The days were warm but nights got chilly even cold forcing one to don a jacket or a shawl.

Tucked in between was the amber dusk, with the most glorious view of the sun setting behind the stone walls of Nani Daman Fort into the Arabian Sea. Breaking the shimmering ochre were silhouettes of small fishermen boats returning to land…On one nippy morning, auto rickshaws and buses chugged their way in and out of Daman breaking the silence of the dawn; the streets were beginning to come alive with vendors selling fruits and vegetables, vada-pav, fresh fruit juice, serving snacks and tea to the early birds; small shop-owners were opening shutters to start their day; labourers were friskily hastening their way to factories; it was a regular morning with just one exception.

There were hoards of school children ready with their crisp and clean uniforms springing along their way through the streets of Daman. The buzz in their gait was unusual, their bags lighter and smiles much brighter. Students of Standards 10th, 11th and 12th donning T-shirts and Caps provided by the administration had answered Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for demonetisation. And, to make the drive a success they had accepted the challenge to make Daman cashless…and the first in all of India to do so.

Amidst all the excitement, each student would try to seek out his ‘group partner’ before buses, specially plied by the government for the drive, arrived to take them to their allotted area. Teachers, in charge of these groups waited anxiously for their students flipping the electoral sheet (target list) in their hands. The daily discipline on school grounds was replaced with a chirpy buzz: A buzz heralding the imminent arrival of a change that would be historic.

The buses arrived and students with their respective groups clamoured for their seats taking their first tiny yet decisive step towards educating and empowering the common men and women of Daman towards making the territory ‘India’s First Cashless Region’…Upon landing, with electoral lists in hand, and quickly rehearsing a drill, groups swiftly disperses into the crowd and went from door to door, shop to shop, flat to flat, gate to gate, leaving no place untouched, all across Daman.

“We are here to tell you that it is time now to move to cashless transactions and use the multitude of options for electronic payments”, quipped one. “You can use debit and credit cards, Paytm, E-wallet to accept payment from your customer,” explained the other.

“Do you have a bank account?” asked one student to a woman passing by. From out of Daman and likely a migrant labourer, she responded with apprehension yet declined. The teacher in the group intervened, “It’s okay… but you must open a bank account”, explaining to her that doing so will make life easier for her, ensure delivery of promised wages, savings for a secure future and comfort of doing transactions easily. Why, even a snazzy Chinese stall by the roadside in Daman stood complete in all its finery with a Paytm barcode printed on a placard for electronic brevity. The Tasty Nasta & Chinese outlet run by Jitu and Gautam is a huge hit with tourists and locals alike.

Jitu and Gautam's 'The Tasty Nasta and Chinese'
The target list was long but the enthusiasm refused to wane. After talking to 200-300 people, each group returned to the spot where it started. Their uniforms were a little dusty by now, shoes jaded, the electoral lists crumpled, water bottles empty but their spirits refused to dip. They got onto the bus, back to their school and shared their experiences with each other and their teachers.

Back to Date

A month later, after the call for demonetisation was made, the media across India and beyond borders wrote reams about how Daman became India’s first cashless region and showed the way to the rest of the nation. Today, after December 19th 2016 when the government announced that Daman had become cent per cent cashless, the mornings in Daman changed.

Even as the entire nation debated and cribbed about government’s decision to opt for demonetisation; about how the Opposition was kept in the dark and about how the ‘poor were hit the worst’, the young of Daman had made the seemingly-impossible feat happen and changed their own destiny. Today Daman, owing to its children, stands tall.

'The Daman Dash' - A Docufilm on Children on National Duty

Daman’s most unassuming, unsung heroes, at the call of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi for demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on November 8th 2016, hurtled in a race against time to meet the December 31st 2016 target laid down by the government. Bolstered with basic training on e-transfers and cashless transactions, school students went door to door across Daman to make the transition from a Cash-Dependent to a Cashless India. DraftCraft documents the young, spirited endeavour through 'The Daman Dash', a docufilm on Children on National Duty. Read the complete news feature below.

Watch the docufilm 'The Daman Dash', a DraftCraft Productions film here.
Click here to download the DraftCraft feature in PDF format.