Scramble for disposing off old 500 and 1000 rupee notes and exchange them for new ones led to unprecedented rush at banks and post offices since early Thursday morning.
With the banks reopening after a day’s closure after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “midnight coup” demonetizing the 500 and 1000 rupee notes Tuesday midnight, the people in their anxiety to exchange the old notes with them with the new ones for their day-to-day expenses descended at the banks and post offices much before they opened. Serpentine queues with young and old, men and women were seen at all the banks, both private and public sector, besides the post offices.
Though the Union government and RBI authorities released new 500 and 2000 denomination currency notes from today, they indicated that an amount of only Rs 4,000 could be withdrawn at present though there is no cap on the amounts that could be deposited. The citizens, especially those belonging to the middle and lower middle classes besides the daily-wage and contract laborers, vegetable vendors, housewives and so on vied with each other to reach the banks and post offices as early as possible.
The poor working class people like the daily wage earners, who were the worst affected as they could not make purchases of essential commodities, and also those whose patients were undergoing treatment in various hospitals and who could not either purchase the required medicines and clear hospital bills, were seen patiently waiting in the long queues before the banks. Ironically though the government had announced that the old notes could be exchanged at post offices, the new notes did not reach the post offices putting the people to long waiting and hardships. One harassed person said they had to wait for over four hours to get four thousand rupees.
Another problem the citizens faced was that they could exchange and withdraw amounts to the tune of Rs 4000 only, but they were provided with the new notes of 500 and 2000 denomination. “What will we do with these big notes when we go for purchases, small shop-keepers and vegetable vendors, who insist for smaller denomination note. But the banks or post offices are not giving the smaller denomination notes, lamented one contract worker and a domestic maid.
The shutting down of ATMs for two days have only compounded the hardships for the people. Many who depended on credit and debit cards for cash withdrawals were forced to go to the banks. However, the unprecedented rush for the exchange of old notes only made their woes worse. The ATMs are expected to start functioning from Friday after two days closure and the banks have begun measures to fill the required cash in the banks. What is bothering many customers is that, though they could withdraw only Rs 2000 for the time-being per day, they may not get smaller denomination notes which are essential for small purchases.
The surgical strike by the Prime Minister in demonetizing 500 and 1000 rupee notes in a bid to unearth black money and also check circulation of fake currency had its tragic impact also. One woman in Mahabubabad in Telangana State reportedly committed suicide fearing that the huge amount she got after selling her land had become worthless. (NSS)