Thousands of Indians spent hours standing in queues across India to exchange and deposit their old currency notes on a working day. People rushed to the banks and post offices much before the opening time to get lower denomination currency and new banknotes to pay for their daily basic needs.
Chaos and panic began on Tuesday night at 8 pm when Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the nation announced that the then existing ₹ 500 and ₹ 1000 currency notes were going to be scrapped in four hours. The announcement left many people in a state of panic as all the higher denomination notes were made invalid.
According to PM Modi the entire exercise was being done to flush out black money from the economy.
When banks and post offices opened after a day’s break on Thursday to hand out new currency, cash-strapped people desperately stood for hours for the new cash.
People complained of having to wait for a long time before they could replace old higher denomination notes or withdraw from their bank accounts using pay-in slips or cheques.
Many felt the government should have done all preparations, including stocking ATMs, before announcing the decision.
“Despite having money with us, we are struggling for basic necessities as grocery stores, DTC buses and other local shops are not accepting these notes. Now I have to skip going to office today to exchange notes as there is such a long queue that my turn will not come before another 3-4 hours,” said Kumkum Bhargav, a primary school teacher.
Kunal Bhardwaj, a TCS employee said, “Those who have blackmoney will anyway find methods to get away. It is common man who will suffer. Now we have no option other than waiting in queues as there is no money for basic things as well”.
Banks set up additional counters to change cash and are also working additional hours to meet the huge demand. The banks are also scheduled to remain open on the weekend – both Saturday and Sunday. Some banks are going to function late till 9 PM for the next three days.
Security has also been stepped up in banks and ATMs in view of the expected rush even as people fumed over the idea of waiting in long queues on a working day.
As many 3,400 personnel of paramilitary and Delhi Police along with quick reaction teams have been deployed across the national capital for maintaining security in banks.
ATMs will provide the new currency only from Friday after being shut for two whole days. Long serpentine queues are expected there too for the next few days.
As of now a limited quota of cash is being handed out to the people. The cap is slated to be eased in a few days.
(With inputs from PTI)