Budget Special 2017: Will angadia operators be forced to cash out?

Mumbai's cash couriers now face greater risk from the law after Finance Minister announces cap of Rs 3 lakh on cash dealings

Angadia operators are unofficial cash couriers who transport large amounts of money or jewellery for a fee. Pic for representation
Angadia operators are unofficial cash couriers who transport large amounts of money or jewellery for a fee. Pic for representation

For years, angadia operators have functioned as the city's unofficial cash couriers, but they may finally be forced to cash out altogether after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced a ban on cash transactions above Rs 3 lakh.'

This cap on cash dealings may be the final nail in the coffin of the parallel economy that has thrived on the swift and hassle-free, informal services provided by angadias, who transfer anything from cash to diamonds to jewellery within 24 hours for a fee.

Taking a second hit
Thanks to the cash crunch following the demonetisation drive, angadia operators had already taken a hit. Close to 80% of the operators in Mumbai switched to providing regular courier services instead of cash couriers. While some did this to support a cashless economy, many made the switch out of fear.

"Their courier services are legal, but when it involves transferring unaccounted money, it becomes illegal. They were doing cash transactions unofficially and illegally. The only thing that can stop them is this new ban, as it will instil a sense of fear among them, as they will now have to face legal consequences for carrying cash over R3 lakh," said a crime branch official.

Not the end yet
However, there are some who believe that since angadias were already functioning illegally, they will hardly stop now. "Those who deal in huge amounts of cash through hawala operators and angadias will obviously not shut their business as they were already involved in illegal dealings. But, to avoid getting caught with large amounts of cash, they will probably divide the cash into small packs of not more than R3 lakh each," said an Income Tax officer.

"They will now maintain their books in such a manner that even if they are caught by law enforcers, they can claim that they are only dealing in amounts less than R3 lakh. For example, an angadia carrying R10 lakh for a client can claim that the money belongs to four people," said another I-T official.

A businessman from Kalbadevi agreed that angadia and hawala operations cannot be curbed completely in an economy that still uses cash. But this new move is still likely to pinch them, and the burden will probably be passed on to the clients. "The Angadias will probably charge more now, as the risk is even greater," he said.

Angadia - An unofficial courier-cum-banking service
Angadia means courier, but also designates those who act as hawaladars within the country. These people mostly act as a parallel banking system for businessmen and charge a commission of 0.2–0.5 per cent for each transaction, that is transferring money from one city to another. This unofficial courier-cum-banking service is a secret world and works on mutual trust. Though crores of rupees are being transferred everyday, most of the transactions take place between Ahmedabad and Mumbai. Since Independence, the angadias, who hail from Gujarat, have been the frontrunners when it comes to transferring money, gold and diamonds.

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