On 21 November, a startup from Delhi called BookMyChotu put up a Facebook post offering services of handymen (colloquially called chotu) to stand in queues outside banks, for an hourly charge. The post began with the questions, "Are you short of cash?" and "Need a Helper to stand in Queue of the bank/ATM till the time your turn comes??" This post is symptomatic, and a blatant example of the exploitative nature of the current cash crunch, which threatens the marginalisation of the weaker sections of society. Firstpost tried to engage with the service as a customer to see how the process works.
The site’s Facebook post, already shared by thousands, had attracted sufficient outrage considering which the operations, Firstpost felt, might have been halted. In any case, confirmation was required to know whether operations were up. We confirmed a booking on 22 November through the site’s online booking facility for the next day. While we got a confirmation through mail, we received no further calls or any form of communication, on the day of service. Initially, it seemed, that the site had paid heed to social media outrage and held on to its operations. But we decided to call the number given on the website. We got through to a person, who did not give his name, but confirmed that the services were ongoing. "Sir demand hi bohat zadaa hogyi hai ab. Aap aisa kijiye main apko dusra number deta hun [The demand has been very high. I will give you another number]."
We wanted to make sure that the person knew we wanted a helper to stand in the queue for banks and not any other chores. To which the person said, "Haan haan mil jaaenge. Ladke roz nikal rahe hain [Yes, yes you will get the guys they are doing this every day]." While the website is anchored to a Noida address, its operations are spread all over Delhi. We wanted to confirm if they had a problem sending people to different parts of the city to which the person said, "Nahi sir. Koi problem nahi hai. Ladke purey din har jagah nikal rahe hain [No sir, there is no problem. The guys travel all day to all places in the city].”
In a frontpage article on 23 November in the Hindustan Times the CEO of the service Satjeet Singh Bedi is quoted as saying that his inspiration behind the idea was "when my mother was ill and I needed immediately needed cash". Contrary to that sentiment, there are no conditional restrictions to who can use the website’s services. This means that as long as you have the money and are willing to pay, you can get someone to stand for you in queue.
Incidentally, and though the service may have become popular only after it demonitisation antics, Firstpost addressed the neo-feudal tone in its nature of operations back in July. BookMyChotu has since, evidently gone on and straddled itself to a wave of crisis to ride the misery of the poor and the unprivileged, dehumanise their very existence and serve the rich and resourceful, which is exactly the class demontisation seeks to address. Under the garb of nationalism and assisting with a national motive, BookMyChotu’s services are the first, elaborate manifestation of the marginalisation of the poor for the benefit of the rich. It proves that equality can be conveniently mystified, as long as there is someone to pay the price and someone to bear the cost.
First Published On : Nov 24, 2016 18:48 IST