New Delhi : Millions of anxious people with Rs 500 and 1,000 notes mobbed banks across India throughout Thursday to exchange or deposit them after the government declared them illegal tender.
Thousands began assembling outside banks even before they opened after Prime Minister Narendra’s Modi’s surprise announcement on Tuesday aimed at curbing black money, corruption and terror financing.
People jostled to get lower denominations or new currency notes as a sweeping cash crunch caused all round chaos and inconveniences to buy even simple daily essentials.
At many places, people had to return disappointed because many banks ran out of cash just hours after opening for the day.
But at some places, desperate people kept waiting outside the banks even after they closed for the day with the staff still inside.
There was a huge rush of customers, many of them angry, outside Corporation Bank in Noida Sector 16 when it closed at 6 p.m.
A security guard told IANS that people were asked to go after the bank disbursed all its cash by 3.30 p.m. “They are still not willing to go. A couple of them began fighting with me.”
Similar scenes played out at nearby Kotak Mahindra and Canara Bank where people argued with bank officials to let them in.
“I have no cash since yesterday. Will anybody make them understand the hardships I have gone through in the last two days?” shouted Rama Krishnan, an HR executive with a tech company.
However, many banks worked till late. An official of HDFC Bank in Delhi’s Model Town said they disbursed “lakhs of rupees to desperate customers” till late evening but could not cater to all.
Those left out were asked to come again on Thursday, the official said, refusing to reveal his name.
Earlier, serpentine queues started near banks across the country hours before they opened.
Bank officials stood outside distributing withdrawal or exchange forms to customers prescribed by the Reserve Bank of India.
The government had said Rs 4,000 worth of spiked currency can be exchanged daily but most banks halved this amount to cater to most of the customers.
Anil Wadhwani, an executive with a retail chain, realized this to his horror — after being in a queue outside a bank in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar for five long hours.
“I had brought four 1,000 rupee notes but could only exchange Rs 2,000,” Wadhwani said outside the ICICI Bank.
Chaos played out almost everywhere, including in Hyderabad, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru and Chandigarh.
Innumerable households reported they had to scrounge for smaller notes and even coins to buy basic food items on Wednesday and Thursday.
“The problem is indeed massive for everyone,” said Naresh Kumar, a south Delhi resident. “Now the 500 rupee note is so common that virtually no one is unaffected. This is different from the earlier demonetizations.
“The tragedy has worsened because it is near impossible to even enter banks now to do NEFT and RTGS,” he added.
Anxious customers also crowded at post offices.
For many who managed to get hold of the new 500 and 2,000 rupees notes, it was like a war won. Many clicked selfies and put them on social media.
But outside they encountered fresh problems as they could not get them changed due to a virtual absence of Rs 100 and 50 and lower denomination notes in the markets.
Amid the public anger over the inconveniences, the government scrambled to clear confusion about the decision to demonetize.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said people might face problems initially but in the medium to long run they would definitely benefit from the move.
“It is only those with large amounts of undisclosed money who will have to face the consequences under existing laws,” the minister said.
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