COVID-19: ‘Contactless’ Payment Methods Still Unavailable


Although the government is stressing on maintaining social distance, people who go out for buying groceries have to deal in cash. 

By Shalu Chowrasia

Howrah: At 7’oclock in the morning, when Shambhu leaves his house to buy groceries, he makes sure he is wearing a mask. He says he is worried that social distancing norms are not being followed in the markets from where he gets his essentials.

“None of the vegetable sellers and shop owners in Shibpur bazaar have Unified Payment Interface (UPI) transaction methods available. I have no other option but to deal in cash,” said Shambhu, a resident of Howrah, West Bengal.

The novel Coronavirus has cost 414 lives in India and over one lakh worldwide as of April 16. With the count of confirmed cases touching 12,380 in India, the central government has extended the nationwide lockdown till May 03.

Essential services are continuing during this period and cashless payment methods are being promoted. However, though there has been a spurt in digital or cashless modes of payments, they remain unavailable in many pockets of India.

Big Bazaar outlet in Avani Mall, Shibpur, which remains open every day from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM does not accept UPI payments or any other cashless methods. Amit, who went to buy essentials, complained, “They are only accepting cards and cash. I don’t know what the point of cashless payment methods are if we are not able to use it during such a health emergency.”

The Indian Government, as well as the RBI and other banks, have urged citizens to use digital payment methods to reduce the spread of COVID-19, a report said. Sunil Shaw, who owns a grocery store in Bakultala, keeps the store open from 7:00 AM to 10:00 AM and only accepts cash. “I do not have a smartphone and I do not know how to use a digital payment app for business,” Sunil said.

Nabanir Hospital, opposite Dumurjala Stadium, also deals in cash or cards. Sabyasachi Chakrabarti, who is a consultant at the hospital and is a co-owner, said that he had not given it much thought. “I will try to ensure it is available as soon as I get to know about the process,” he added.

Digital payment modes can be used without any human contact and experts say it is the safest during the virus outbreak. Dr Morin Joy, who has been spearheading the treatment of COVID-19 patients at Sri Aurobindo Institute of Medical Sciences, said, “Digital payments are the only contactless way of buying and selling things today. Dealing in cash is risky and it can’t be emphasized enough. Everyone should try limiting cash transactions as much as possible.” 


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