Unbearable queues, unbankable ATMs

Life across the State was either hours of waiting or frantic rushing from one cash point to another

November 12, 2016 12:00 am | Updated December 04, 2021 10:50 pm IST - CHENNAI:

The common man was the most hit as banks drowned in chaos with hundreds waiting in queues inside and outside, and in front of ATMs for long hours on Friday.

ATMs were supposed to be open and functioning from the morning but in many cities and towns, they remained closed till noon. In places where they were functional, customers had to encounter large queues.

The story was the same across all key cities — Tiruchi, Madurai, Coimbatore, Kancheepuram and Chennai. Only a few ATMs were functioning and people had to go in search of more facilities in a desperate attempt to get some cash. Their only other option was to wait in banks for long hours.

S. Lalitha, a resident of Sadasivam Nagar in Madipakkam, said that the first thing she did in the morning was to rush to a few ATMs in her locality only to find them dishing out receipts stating the requested cash transactions could not be carried out.

N. Kumarapandi, a resident of K. Pudur in Madurai, running a two-wheeler workshop, said that he had been roaming around the city since morning in search of a functioning ATM but could not find one. “I am in dire need of cash since yesterday. There are long queues in banks, which are encouraging only cash exchanges and deposits and not withdrawals,” he said.

In Coimbatore too, the trouble continued. Only those banks that had adequate cash sent money to ATMs, said a bank manager. Many people like Chithra, a resident of K.K. Nagar. Tiruchi, said she had to go from one locality to another in search of ATMs that were functioning.

“The ATMs I went to in Thillai Nagar, Woraiyur and Cantonment areas in the city remained closed. This is exhausting and I have run out of cash and need smaller denomination notes for day-to-day expenses. We could not even pay for grocery and vegetables,” she said.

Business establishments either remained shut or reported minuscule business. Though the bankers expected most of the ATMs to be functional by noon, many of the ATMs remained out-of-service until late in the afternoon. There was a shortage of Rs. 100 currency notes that had to be fed in to the ATMs.

“That is why ATMs could not function in full swing,” a bank official said.

Days away

The trouble is not over yet. It could take about six days for the situation to normalise, officials said. “We have cleared only 50 per cent of ATMs as of Thursday, flushing out old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes and loading it with Rs. 100 notes. In six days, the entire process would be over,” Balasubramanian, President – Transaction Processing & ATM Services, FSS told The Hindu . The company maintains 40,000 ATMs across the country.

For people in rural areas, however, access to cash through ATMs will take even longer as smaller denomination cash has to be transported from a central location to the ATMs. “The distance is sometimes over 100 kilometres.”

“For Rs. 2, 000 notes, testing and configuration have to be carried out for dispensing them through ATMs. Hence, Rs. 2,000 notes will be available at the ATMs only after a week,” he said.

While travellers continued to be hit by the sudden announcement, a few people heaved a sigh of relief. Vijayaraghavan, a businessman from Chennai, skipped breakfast to rush out and get some cash. “It was a big relief that I could finally get some,” he said after withdrawing money from the SBI ATM near Central Bus Stand in Tiruchi.

Onsite ATMs — those inside bank premises —in Kancheepuram district started functioning fully from around noon but ATMs maintained through outsourcing partners were yet to be fully operational . According to official sources, there are around 300 ATM centres in the district and out of these, one-fourth were on-site ATMs.

Meanwhile, those who were able to get the Rs. 2,000 notes were left bewildered as to how to exchange them.

Many industries, including the micro, small and medium industries and real estate companies, pay weekly wages to their employees, usually on Saturday. But many expressed doubts whether they would be able to meet the obligations.

For many, hopes of a restful weekend look all set to be dashed as they expect to be in queues for most of the two days.

(With inputs from Sanjay Vijaykumar, Pon Vasanth Arunachalam, S. Ganesan, Sangeetha Kandavel, R Srikanth, Soundariya Preetha, V. Venkatasubramanian and T.K. Rohit)

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