Demonetisation plays spoilsport for this year’s World Book Fair in Delhi

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Coming two months after demonetisation, the World Book Fair was expected to tide over the cash crunch with publishers armed with means to conduct digital transactions, but intermittent network glitches and lack of change for Rs 2,000 notes are playing spoilsport.

Be it the problem of not having “enough Rs 100 notes” to counter the flow of the newly minted Rs 2000 note or customers seeking digital transactions on amounts as little as Rs 40, vendors and visitors seem to be affected alike in the aftermath of demonetisation.

World Book Fair

“We are facing all kinds of problems. Customers who are carrying cash, flash Rs 2000 notes, while purchasing something worth Rs 200. From where do I furnish enough Rs 100 notes for the required change?

“Others want online payments even for purchases below Rs 100, but I am being charged 5 per cent service tax everytime I swipe a card,” said Manish Sabharwal of Sabharwal Publishers.

Having refused most customers, he says it is the publisher who is “losing out on both ends”.

Customers like Neeraj Malhotra, who had to give up on buying some of his favourite titles that he dug out from a pile of books, were left disappointed when the mobile ATMs inside and the periphery of the venue refused to dispense cash.

“I went to a stall selling books at throwaway prices, did all the hardwork of selecting titles out of the huge mountain of books they have stacked. But then, as luck would have it, they were only accepting cash.

“I went to the nearby mobile atms but they were out of cash. Left with no option, I was forced to bid farewell to Sidney Sheldon’s ‘Bloodline’ and James Joyce ‘Ulyesses’,” he said.

While it may seem that having access to card machines and e-payment portals would have been enough to disperse the chaos, periodic connectivity issues marred the fair experience for bibliophiles.

Kaushik from Srishti Publications, who is equipped with all the necessary paraphernalia to carry out digital payments says poor network has compelled him to send away customers.

“I am equipped with all the paraphernalia required for cashless transaction, be it the card machine or paytm. But, what can you do when the connection betrays you.

“It is a big problem. One can’t waste time dealing with one customer only, just because his card or your machine is not working at that point of time,” he says.

The World Book Fair underway at Pragati Maidan here is set to continue till January 15.

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