Long queues, short patience outside banks and ATMs as India copes with demonetization

Posted on Nov 14 2016 - 7:40am by Huzoor Bux


It wasn’t a pleasant weekend for majority of Indians. 

Long, snaking queues outside banks and ATMs grew larger over the weekend in India as the struggle among people to get paper cash intensified. With each passing day, India’s bold decision to invalidate over 80 percent of paper cash last week is disrupting the lives of more than a billion citizens. 

Hundreds of thousands queued outside ATMs and banks yet again over the weekend, even standing past midnight in hope of getting paper cash. ATMs failed to pump out enough bills with many of them remaining non-functional, leaving people stranded of money even after wasting hours standing in queues. The lucky few who managed to get hold of the new Rs 2,000 notes struggled to change them into smaller denominations as Rs 100 and smaller currency notes remain in short supply.

Crowd outside two ATMs at Nehru Place, New Delhi.

Image: Manish Singh / mashable india

epa05629829 Indian People stand in queue to exchange Indian rupee notes at bank, in Bangalore, India, 13 November 2016. In a major decision, Indian Prime Minister, in an address to the nation has stated that currency notes with denomination values of INR 500 (about 7.5 US dollars) and INR 1000 (about 15 US dollars) respectively will be invalid and will be discontinued from midnight of 08 November 2016. Indian government also introduced the new notes of INR 500 (about 7.5 US dollars) and INR 2000 (about 30 US dollars) and citizens would be allowed to exchange their old currency notes through the banks and post offices till 30 December 2016. This is being considered as a major step towards curbing the problem of black money.  EPA/JAGADEESH NV

Though people becoming increasingly impatient, we are also seeing people come out of their houses to keep the situation calm. Reports of good Samaritans serving people in queues water, tea and biscuits outside several ATMs emerged over the weekend. On a positive note, cops in western Indian city of Pune have registered no incidents of home break-ins since the demonetization took place as most homes no longer have legit cash.

A handful of cases where hospitals refused to treat patients because of insufficient paper cash emerged over the weekend. An infant died at a hospital in Mumbai, and a man with multiple organ failure was refused treatment in Bareilly, a city in the northern Indian state Uttar Pradesh. In another such incident, an ambulance declined to accept old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in Bihar.

India will need more patience as the cash shortage won’t be behind us for another few weeks. ATMs aren’t compatible with the new Rs. 2,000 notes, which India began circulating last week and require physical recalibration. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said recalibration of such ATMs will be complete in two weeks. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also addressed the difficulties people are facing, and requested them to bear with the situation for another 50 days. He said if lives aren’t back on track in next 50 days (ends Dec. 30) he is willing to face consequences and any other punishment. 

“I was not born to occupy the high chair,” he said. “I have left my home, my family for the sake of the country. I promise you I will give you the India of your dreams… If someone faces a problem, I also feel the pain. I understand their problem but this is only for 50 days,” he said.

During his visit to Japan last week, Modi reiterated the announcements he made in India, and noted that this was all to curb “black” money accumulated through illicit activities, and hidden from tax authorities. “I know it is difficult. People are made to speak against Modi but I salute the people… some stood in the queues for five hours, six hours but endured the hardship. The same way as people in Japan endured in 2011,” he said. 

Modi added that those who have hoarded black-money, once caught, the government will investigate their records since Independence. “We will check all the records since Independence. If I come across any unaccounted cash, no one will be spared,” he said. How this all pans out remains to be seen, in the meantime, people continue to suffer. 



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