NDTV-Mastercard Cashless Bano India

With No Mobile Network, This Tribal Village Of Chhattisgarh Is Totally Cashless

With No Mobile Network, This Tribal Village Of Chhattisgarh Is Totally Cashless


  1. District administration engaged BSNL, Essar to establish Wi-Fi facility
  2. Shopkeepers use the WiFi to operate Micro-ATMs and Point of Sale machines
  3. The villagers use BHIMP app and Paytm to pay for their shopping
New Delhi: If you believe that you can and will achieve something, you will find all the means to make the impossible possible. That is what drove the villagers and administration of Palnar, a remote village in the violence affected Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh. When demonetisation was announced in November 2016, one of the major concerns across the country was how villages, especially the ones without access to internet network are going to adopt digital/cashless transactions. In Palnar, the villagers had similar concerns, as demonetisation brought a sense of gloom to the whole village.
cashless village palnar saurabh kumar

With the nearest bank nearly 50 kilometres away, no ATMs in the vicinity, no decent cellular network (no mobile tower for 15km on any side) zero internet connectivity, poor literacy rate, and lack of awareness about using cards/mobile phones for cash transactions, the odds seemed to be clearly stacked against Palnar to go digital.  

However, Saurabh Kumar, District Collector, Dantewada, had an ingenious strategy in place to make the village and the district cashless. Under his supervision, the district administration of Dantewada engaged BSNL for establishing free Wi-Fi internet facility. Furthermore, Mr Kumar and his team even approached Essar group, which had its optical fibre line passing through the region, and requested them to extend their network for Palnar village. Essar lent its support as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and installed a 4 Mbps internet leased line in collaboration with BSNL.

Now with internet in place, the next herculean task was to educate, enable and convince the villagers to adopt secured and safe digital payment solutions for day to day transactions. And to achieve this, Mr Kumar formed a total of 11 experienced teams, comprising various government officials, social reformers, bankers, technical officials, some village elders, and institutions.
cashless village palnar awareness campaign

These teams then conducted multiple meetings to convince the villagers about the need to go cashless and the methods to adopt digital means of transactions. Interestingly, bankers proactively distributed RuPay cards, seeded existing accounts with Aadhar and mobile numbers, wherever possible, and opened current accounts for the traders.

Following in the footsteps of Chief Minister Dr Raman Singh to create a 'Digital Army', Mr Kumar also formed one comprising 600 members, who were integral to the whole campaign.

These teams then created awareness among the locals, shopkeepers and businessmen and taught them how to conduct cashless transactions, using Micro-ATMs (where a designated business correspondent facilitates banking transactions in remote locations where there are no bank branches), PoS machines and other such devices.
cashless village palnar awareness campaign

Notably, by acting as translators for local language 'Gondi'; the local youth/public representatives acted as brand ambassadors for the initiative. And in a short span of 20 days, the teams were able to bring in seashore changes in the mindset of the villagers to go cashless.

As on date, over 5,000 people in the district became members of the 'digital army' and in total about 12,800 people were trained in making digital transactions. Villagers and shopkeepers were encouraged to install applications like BHIM and Paytm to do digital transactions on their mobile phones and use it.
shopkeepers cashless village palnar

As expected, the efforts garnered positive results - the entire shopping complex in the region now has Wi-Fi facility and businessmen have Point of sale (POS) machines and each shopkeeper has e-payment facility. The villagers use BHIM app, Paytm, SBI Buddy to pay for their shopping, and the shops also act as micro-ATMs where Aadhaar-based withdrawals and deposits happen - making Palnar, a cashless village.

Following the Palnar model, around 11 more village panchayats have been made cashless, and most of the shops among the 5 urban towns have started offering cashless facilities. Free Wi-Fi zones have further been provided in 4 more towns/villages in the district with the intention of encouraging cashless payment means.  
cashless village palnar

About 90 per cent of businessmen in Dantewada have adopted cashless payment mode. The district administration is also in the process to make all payments and pensions under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, for all purchases at gram panchayat level through digital mode.

Interestingly, every villager in Palnar now uses WiFi service and WhatsApp and other communication apps to stay connected with the outside world, since they don't have a mobile network!
cashless village palnar saurabh kumar

For all his efforts to make a remote village cashless in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh, Mr Kumar was also rewarded for Excellence in Public Administration by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2017.

Even Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog, appreciated the efforts of Saurabh Kumar, District Collector, in a tweet:

Share this story on

About The Campaign

About The Campaign

NDTV along with MasterCard is launching a multi-platform campaign “Cashless Bano India”, to create digital awareness and educate the masses about digital payment solutions for day to day transactions.

The campaign aims to take the message of a cash free India to the country, all while educating them on the ways and means to do it.

We aim to reach out to people and educate them on:

1). Digital and financial literacy

2). New generation digital payment solutions

3). Enabling merchants and consumers to understand and adopt secured and safe payment Solutions

4). Ease of usage at point of sales