The New Year began on a sore note for Madurai residents as many ATMs of several public sector banks in the city shut down or ran out of cash in the last few days.

Customers said that ATMs in Vishwanathapuram, Pudur, Dr. Ambedkar Road, Aavin Junction and other areas in the city did not function. Pensioners and members of the salaried class were put to severe inconvenience as it is the beginning of the month when their salaries and pension amount would have been credited.

Some members of the public said that the all the ATMs of a large public sector bank failed to work on one recent day. Another customer said that all but one bank's ATM located inside the Madurai Railway Junction did not function on Saturday morning.

Owing to the recent Reserve Bank of India (RBI) norms enabling customers to conduct five free transactions at non-home bank ATMs in a month, long queues were witnessed in the few remaining ATMs that worked. In some areas, a few private bank ATMs also did not operate.

A bank official said that owing to staff shortage, some ATMs of their bank that ran out of cash could not be refilled. Another official of a public sector bank with a large network of ATMs told The Hindu on Monday that their bank no longer carried out the process of loading the cash. The process had been outsourced to a private agency. The problems in ATMs in the last few days had arisen due to the logistical and technical problems faced by the private agency, the bank official said.

Expressing regret over the inconvenience faced by the public, the official said that full efforts were on to restore all ATMs. The official said that the cash withdrawal patterns of ATMs were being maintained and flow of cash was being monitored. All ATMs are restocked in accordance with norms coming from the Head Office, the official said.