Sunday proves no different for people in need of money

People were in for a shock on a Sunday morning as the sight of long queues in front of bank branches and ATMs across West Bengal greeted them on the fifth day after Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 currency notes were demonetised.

With all bank branches open on Sunday as per the RBI directive to deal with the unprecedented situation, people formed serpentine queues in front of banks from as early as 6 am to withdraw money.

Some people were lucky to be able to withdraw money from a few operating ATMs, but given the huge demand for cash it proved to be just drops of water in a ocean.

The average Bengali bhadralok had to tweak their morning routine by first queueing up before an ATM rather than a milk booth or a fish market on a Sunday morning.

There was also the unusual sight of large retail markets like Lake Market, Gariahat and Maniktala in the south and northern parts of the metropolis witnessing little footfall compared to the usual sight of heavy crowd on weekends.

“Generally, I sell more than Rs 1 lakh worth of fish on a Sunday morning, but today I could manage to sell fish worth a few thousand rupees,” Apu Naskar, a fish seller at Lake Market, said.

A few shopkeepers at some markets are still accepting old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in view of the situation and to sell their fast perishable goods, but on condition that the transaction would be worth at least Rs 500 or in multiples.

A fish seller at Kasba CIT market was even seen with a placard hung around his neck stating that he would accept Rs 500 or Rs 1,000 notes if the sale was worth at least Rs 300.

Predictably, there was a large crowd of buyers in front of his shop.

But the most harassed of all remained those with medical emergencies as most medicine shops and many private hospitals refused to accept old currencies of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination.

Exuberance of many people who could manage to withdraw money from bank branches found their joy to be short lived as they could not get change for Rs 2,000 notes at grocery shops or buying other materials of small price.

The scene was repeated across the State as people had little or no money with them or had Rs 2,000 notes which proved to be useless for want of change in the hands of the shopkeepers.

Payments could not be made for different needs of people ranging from buying things of daily needs to plumbing or small electrical works at households.

“I urgently need to do some plumbing work at my house and clean the water tank but I have only Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes at home which are not legal tender now,” said Manish Chatterjee, a resident of Barasat in the northern suburbs of the city.

Only those who were lucky to get Rs 100 notes from some bank branches could manage to continue with their daily chores, but only after spending hours at bank branches.

While there were reports of chaos and commotion at some banks, some branches were thoughtful enough to offer seats to senior citizens and water to those waiting in queues for hours.

“Though I had to wait over three hours to withdraw money, I was offered a seat and drinking water inside the branch,” said P K Roy, a 75-year-old customer at Kasba branch of State Bank of India in the southern part of the metropolis. - PTI

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