In India, Doing Things the “Right” Way is Harder!

When I was in the US, I decided to do the “right” thing and change my savings bank account to an NRI account as required to by the law. You see, I’m a straight arrow type of guy. I like to follow the law of the land and shy away form doing anything remotely shady.

My friends all cautioned me against the move. “No one cares!” they said. None of them had switched their accounts to an NRI account despite residing in another country for years at a time. Converting to an NRI bank account means I have to unlink my Indian telephone number from my account, and it also freezes my ICICIDirect trading account. “Fine”, I told myself. “This is the legal thing to do, so I’ll do it”.

In the end, my friends were right. This move caused me nothing but inconvenience. Would I have done it again? Probably. The law is the law. But it goes to show why Indians love their “jugaad”. Because following the law 100% screws you over.

1. Trading Account Frozen

The most direct impact of my NRI bank account was the freezing of my ICICIDirect trading account which had some 36 lakhs in it in 2015. While my units were still there, I could no longer withdraw my money, buy new shares, or do anything else with it. I had to just watch helplessly as my money sat inactive for 5 years.

Now that I’m in India for a while due to the coronavirus, I decided to switch to an NRI trading account. This is long complicated process that started over a month ago and hasn’t succeeded yet. It’ll (probably) get done, but it’s still a massive inconvenience.

2. Can’t Use BHIM/UPI Payments

Because I no longer have an Indian phone number linked to my bank account, I can’t use any BHIM or UPI payments while in India. So as the rest of the country goes around using any number of convenient phone based payment systems, I have to walk around like an idiot with a debit card in my hand!

There have been many other instances where doing the “right” thing has caused me problems that could have been avoided, had I just done what everyone else was doing, and ignored the law. While I’ll still continue trying to be legal, it shows why so many Indians are comfortable breaking the law outright. It’s because it’s not easy. Red tape is the most common problem, and until the government ensures that following the law is easier than not following the law, things will never change.

And don’t even get me started on the Aadhaar number….

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