Long queues, dry ATMs fuel anger and frustration

Government extends deadline for payments in old notes.

November 12, 2016 02:09 am | Updated December 04, 2021 10:50 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

The nationwide scramble to swap Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes for valid money saw the government extend the deadline for accepting payments for select services till November 14 midnight.

Two people died in separate incidents on Friday — a septuagenarian, who collapsed while waiting in queue at a Mumbai suburb, and a Kerala State Electricity Board employee, who fell to his death at a bank branch in Kannur.

While Vishwanath Vartak, 73, died in Mumbai’s Mulund area while waiting at an SBI branch, the state utility employee in Kerala lost his life after he accidentally fell from the second floor of a State Bank of Travancore branch building.

Banks and ATMs, which opened for the first time in three days and quickly ran out of cash, had long queues of anxious customers waiting outside in several cities. The government swung into damage control mode on Friday evening and announced it would allow the use of the currency that is being withdrawn to pay for select services, including court fees, for another 72 hours.

“There is enough cash with the RBI,” the Finance Ministry said.

ATMs fail to meet high demand for currency

The government’s assurances on Friday on cash availability and extension of deadline for government services to accept old currency notes for payment did little to mitigate the situation on the ground. With cash-strapped citizens making a beeline for banks to exchange old notes, the heavy rush resulted in many banks running out of cash, leaving many disappointed.

“I have been buying supplies in reduced quantity so that I don’t run of Rs. 100 notes. I have no time to go to the bank for I have a job to keep. The government must answer what I stand to gain from all this,” said Vandana Attri, a school teacher, in Delhi.

The disruption was aggravated with most ATMs across the country running out of cash, soon after resuming operations on Friday.

ATM machines are dispensing mostly notes of Rs. 100 denomination while some are also stocked with Rs. 50 notes. According to industry sources, only lower denomination notes are available, resulting in ATMs running out of cash at frequent intervals.

“Right now only Rs. 100 denomination notes are there so you need to put fives times the amount of money. That much of supply is a challenge but it is increasing,” said Ashok Shankar, head of solutions marketing and deployment, NCR India.

The situation is likely to improve on Saturday and Sunday as more machines will become operational, Mr. Shankar added.

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