Where has all the money gone?
Gone to exchange houses, everyone.
Seven million Indians in the Gulf remit over $70 billion each year and more. Much of it goes through a flourishing and hyperactive money exchange set of conduits that delivers cash to the recipient within minutes of its dispatch.
Agreed that as the expats reduce in number, the remittances are falling, but they are still sizeable and this is only the Gulf. Add on the rest of the huge global diaspora and we are looking at over $100 billion.
Against this awesome canvas it is almost inexplicable that exchange houses in India have suddenly stopped giving out money that NRIs have sent. I carried out this exercise to see if it was true that they were downing shutters at one end.
On Tuesday night I sent 200 AED, which is Rs 3,359, to a certain S Kumar from an exchange house to Delhi; this person needing it for an emergency. I sent him the MTCN, which is 19980463XX and the documentation was accurate. Fine, the sum won’t open up a castle in Capri but it is money, period.
Today is Saturday and Kumar has still not been given the money despite several trips to Western Union, which says that the cash has been held for buying gold reserves and they cannot give it to him. It is not their cash to keep. It is mine, meant for a specific party.
Kumar asked them to move it to his account at one such exchange house because their excuse was that they had run out of money. They said "no, sorry, come next week, we might give you a cheque".
This is the 'money in minutes' inaction these days.
Kumar says he went to Nehru Place then to Connaught Place and then to a Muthoot Finance office on Arakahsan Road and is trying again on Saturday, but without any joy. I have no reason not to believe him. He says most of the exchange houses are shut or offer unhelpful answers.
His emergency stays unresolved.
Whether it is Rs 3,000 or Rs 3 lakhs, how can they hold on to the money with these excuses?
And if they cannot give the money at the Indian end why has no announcement been made to that effect
At our end, the Indians — blue and white collar — who send relatively small sums in this fashion have backed off from the exchange houses after realising the money is not being delivered. At most of the airports there is no Indian money to be had.
While in the long run it probably will not impact the bottomline, no one seems to know where the money that NRIs have sent in is, with the belief that it will bring relief to their families.
In the cosmic sense, most people might think hello, we are going through hell in a basket here and you are yammering on about these piddling little sums, but the difference is they have already parted with their foreign exchange and handed it to a legally authorised company.
In India, you are not being united with your money. Here, these people do not know where their money is after they forked it over. All they have are receipts and they cannot even get it back because there seems to be no provision for a return.
These exchange houses should be compelled to disburse it since they charge a service fee. If they cannot then they should not, by common sense, accept money at the foreign end.
It is not a question of all of us suffering together. It is a question of one complication less.
Besides, it is a lot of money for a lot of Indians who work very hard in foreign climes to send these 'little' sums home so the families can get through the month. School fees, clothes, even religious festivals, string beads of finance that make up the necklace.
Mr S Kumar, for now, guess that money is blowing in the wind.