How I managed to survive without Rs. 500, Rs. 1000 notes?

Readers share their experience with The Hindu on how they coped up with demonetisation

Updated - November 17, 2021 10:49 am IST

Published - November 09, 2016 08:58 pm IST

Visakhapatnam,Andhra Predesh,08-11-2016: Instant queues sprung up at cash deposit machines at SBI, Dwarakanagar, in Visakhapatnam late Tuesday evening following the Narendra Modi Government decision to cancel legal tender of Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes even as an ATM wore a deserted look.  --Photo:C.V.Subrahmanyam.

Visakhapatnam,Andhra Predesh,08-11-2016: Instant queues sprung up at cash deposit machines at SBI, Dwarakanagar, in Visakhapatnam late Tuesday evening following the Narendra Modi Government decision to cancel legal tender of Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes even as an ATM wore a deserted look. --Photo:C.V.Subrahmanyam.

The Government’s decision to immediately withdraw Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 currency notes from circulation was received largely positively, if initial Twitter reactions are any indication. Twitterati coined the phrase #SurgicalStrikeOnBlackMoney.

Within minutes of the Prime Minister’s televised address Tuesday night, in which he announced the decision, long queues outside ATMs, last-minute purchase at retail outlets and petrol bunks could be seen.The Rs. 100 note and currencies of lesser denominations became suddenly precious.

The real challenge came when the sun rose. "I walked on foot for nearly 10 km as taxi drivers refused to take Rs. 500 note," wrote a reader to The Hindu .

Spot your nearest ATM There were days when people disliked ATMs that ran out of higher denomination and ejected only Rs. 100 notes. But such ATMs were on demand on Tuesday night. There were those who withdrew Rs. 400 multiple times in order to avoid getting the freshly-banned Rs. 500 notes.

HYDERABAD: 08/11/2016: Citizen carefully withdrawing smaller denomination currency notes like Rs 100 only from ATMs in Hyderabad on Tuesday soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared Rs. 500 and Rs 1000 will not be legal tender in the country in an attempt to curb black money from midnight today .-Photo: Mohammed_Yousuf

HYDERABAD: 08/11/2016: Citizen carefully withdrawing smaller denomination currency notes like Rs 100 only from ATMs in Hyderabad on Tuesday soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared Rs. 500 and Rs 1000 will not be legal tender in the country in an attempt to curb black money from midnight today .-Photo: Mohammed_Yousuf

"Totally uncalled for chaos at ATM. They should have dispensed only smaller denominations and this (exercise) could have been done on weekend," pointed out another reader.

One reader wrote why the Rs. 500 denomination is so important: "Thousand rupee currency's validity doesn't feel so critical but Rs. 500 notes are crucial. As a person from middle class society, we often deal in 100s and 500s mostly. The amount most of us withdraw from ATM is Rs.500. Now suddenly as it has gone invalid, we feel like handicap."

"Mind started to feel that 'Money has no value'. Can't even think of going to hotel, when thinking of 2*100 Rupee notes in the wallet along with few worthless 500 Rupee notes," the reader added.

"I have only Rs. 30 (in smaller denomination)." and "I am thinking twice before spending those precious 100rs notes," were among the common themes in reader replies.

Fuel-filling woes As banks and ATMs were closed for the day, the easier option was to head to the nearest petrol pump with higher denomination notes. At least that was what many thought. But fuel stations soon ran out of lower denomination currency and were willing to sell fuel only to those who were filling for Rs. 500. "I tried filling petrol in my nearest petrol bunk. He says either fill for Rs. 500 flat or give exact change. My scooter can hold only four litres. This is legal extortion," wrote a reader.

VIJAYAWADA, ANDHRA PRADESH, 09/11/2016:
Despite government announcement that high denomination currency will be accepted at petrol bunks, a bunk on M.G. Road put up a notice of non-acceptance of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes, in Vijayawada on Wednesday. Photo: Ch.Vijaya Bhaskar

Despite government announcement that high denomination currency will be accepted at petrol bunks, a bunk on M.G. Road put up a notice of non-acceptance of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes, in Vijayawada on Wednesday. Photo: Ch.Vijaya Bhaskar

Auto rickshaw drivers in Chennai were seen pooling money and sharing fuel. Scooters and motorbike riders were also using the same formula. But the queues were getting bigger and several stations ran out of fuel mid-day.

CHENNAI: 09/11/2016: Auto Drivers trying to pool money, so as to beat the currency freeze. Some petrol pumps are not giving back change if you give them a 500 note. So they wait for other autos and ask the drivers if will 'adjust' and fill the tank together. A scene at a petrol pump on Poonamallee High Road, in Chennai. Prime minister ordered the discontinuance 500 and 1000 rupee notes as part of NDA Govts fight against black money and corruption in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photo: R. Ravindran.

CHENNAI: 09/11/2016: Auto Drivers trying to pool money, so as to beat the currency freeze. Some petrol pumps are not giving back change if you give them a 500 note. So they wait for other autos and ask the drivers if will 'adjust' and fill the tank together. A scene at a petrol pump on Poonamallee High Road, in Chennai. Prime minister ordered the discontinuance 500 and 1000 rupee notes as part of NDA Govts fight against black money and corruption in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photo: R. Ravindran.

Street vendors, eateries bear the brunt The usually-busy sabji mandis in big cities wore a deserted look. "I am accepting Rs 500 notes only from customers who will buy vegetable worth Rs 450, said Balram, a Delhi-based vendor to Shiv Sunny, our Delhi reporter.

"People like us who transact with paperless money will survive the change most comfortably. What about millions outside the banking system?" tweeted noted TV presenter Siddhartha Basu.

This was in view when Shiv Sunny toured the streets of Delhi.

There were hardly any people in jewellery showrooms.

When the purse turns too big "Biggest problem is carrying that many 100 Rs notes when going for apparels shopping. Not every clothing store has a card swiping machine," wrote a reader. And it was not just clothing stores. Lack of card swiping machines were a problem in India's most popular religious destination too.

Our correspondent from Tirumala, the abode of Lord Venkateshwara, reported how the TTD frantically arranged for card-swiping machines for all its cottages and complexes.

Note exchanges becomes season trade "I sold my 500 rupee note for 490! Winner!" wrote a reader. Really? How come that is a fair deal? But there was no time to think on those lines. Small traders were willing to accept Rs. 500 "for a small service charge."

A friend mine went to buy vegetables from local shop in Hussainganj in Lucknow and offered Rs 500 note keeping in mind midnight deadline. The shopkeeper bluntly asked for Rs 50 extra as commission to get the 500 note exchanged, said Omar Rashid, our Lucknow correpondent.

In Hyderabad too, many were willing to exchange their Rs. 500 for a lesser amount.

HYDERABAD: TELANGANA: 09/11/2016: People exchanging the currency of 500 and 1,000 rupees at RBI office in Hyderabad on Wednesday. Minister Narendra Modi announced late November 8 that 500 and 1,000 rupee notes will be withdrawn from financial circulation from midnight, in a bid to tackle corruption. Photo: G. Ramakrishna

HYDERABAD: TELANGANA: 09/11/2016: People exchanging the currency of 500 and 1,000 rupees at RBI office in Hyderabad on Wednesday. Minister Narendra Modi announced late November 8 that 500 and 1,000 rupee notes will be withdrawn from financial circulation from midnight, in a bid to tackle corruption. Photo: G. Ramakrishna

"We do not accept Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000," were common signages in many outlets. Even at the risk of costing their businesses, retailers were are not willing to accept higher denomination currencies.

“Shops are charging card processing fee and I end up paying more even though I have cash,” said a reader.

Our photographer E.Lakshminarayanan shot a photo of a man exchanging his high-value currency with a woman who was begging on the pavements of Salem.

Old and new habits come to rescue "Had a habit of collecting 50 Rupee notes so that, once it reaches 100x50, would deposit in a PPF account. I currently have 80 notes. These are my rescue," wrote a reader. Another one said how he broke open the piggy bank in his place and managed to get some smaller denomination currency.

A roadside currency exchange vendor counts 10 rupee notes in Kolkata, on Wednesday.

A roadside currency exchange vendor counts 10 Indian rupee banknotes in Kolkata, India, November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri

"This is an opportunity to understand the feeling of poorest people even though this may be temporary virtual poor condition," wrote another.

Some began ordering groceries through e-commerce websites and mobile apps, while others wrote how they opened their accounts for the first time in mobile wallets such as Paytm and Freecharge.

"I had 400 Rs yesterday and I am able to live with it as of now. If things go according to plan and the 2000s and 500s will be up on ATMs by tomorrow, I can personally say that the only inconvenience I had was the distraction that was the hoopla everyone made around it. However, really looking forward to see how the govt. steers this mammoth size change through the gates," wrote a relatively "rich" reader.

But this was the plight of Jaya from Puducherry, who did not have the precious Rs.100 notes. "I did not have lunch today even though I had 3500 rupees I was as good as a pauper... I have 3 1000 notes and a 500."

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