Bank, Banks, Currency, India, World

December 19, 2016

Veteran soldier becomes the face of demonetization woes in India

India has been severely hit by a currency crunch following the government’s ban on high-value notes that sucked in about 86% of the cash in circulation. Since then, banks have been a sorry sight with serpentine queues at counters and much restless chaos among people.

One such bank branch situated in a colony in Gurgaon, close to the national capital, saw a 78-year-old army veteran break down after losing his spot in the queue.

Hindustan Times published a compelling photo of him — frail, weary and in despair — that struck a chord with most Indians facing a similar plight for over a month. The photo captioned ‘They Said Only the Rich Will Cry” went viral on social media.

HT reported a day later that the ex-Army man, who had served on the Punjab and J&K borders, was queuing up at the State Bank of India branch unsuccessfully for three days to withdraw his pension money that the Indian government deposits in his account every month.

Shortly after the photo went viral, a host of individuals, including his relatives, paid him a visit in his modest room to lend him money. However, the veteran of the 1971 Indo-Pak war refused all help

“I don’t want alms, let me withdraw my money,” he said.  Lal has now been touted as the “face of India’s demonetization woes”. And this is not the first time that a telling human portrait has become emblematic of a crisis.

Earlier this year, the image of a blood-soaked five-year-old boy, Omran Daqneesh, who was recovered from debris in the ravaged Syrian city of Aleppo, became the symbol of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the region.  And last year, the still visual of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, who washed up dead on a beach in Turkey while his family tried to immigrate, was a commentary on the enormous refugee crisis in Syria. Kurdi’s picture was the one held aloft as tens of thousands marched in protests across the world. 

It also went on to inspire political cartoonists.

“Pictures speak more than a thousand words.” Even in the internet age of videos, emojis and GIFs, the old adage holds true.

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