Tens of hundreds of people formed serpentine queues across the country as banks re-opened on Tuesday after a three-day holiday that had aggravated problems for millions of Indians struggling to withdraw cash after last month’s shock culling of high-value banknotes.
Long queues were also seen at ATMs, most of which had run dry during the extended weekend.
It was the first time banks were closed for three consecutive days since the government announced the recall of 1000 and 500-rupee notes on November 8, a move it said was a war on illicit cash and counterfeit currency.
“People have been queuing up since morning to ensure that they got their money…many ATMs had no money in the last couple of days…the ATMs that had money got dry within just a few hours,” said a senior official at a public sector bank in Delhi.
In the Chandni Chowk area, that has dozens of banks on both sides of the main road, long queues extending more than 200 metres could be seen.
“The banks in this area are usually crowded as it is a business hub and traders deals in running currency,” said Mohammad Arif, a trader.
Bankers said most of the people were trying to withdraw money and only a very few people are depositing the new notes.
Faced with a shortage of cash, banks continued to cap withdrawals, with some dispensing about Rs 6000. Others with more cash were giving around Rs 16,000, officials added.
“We had done away with the token system but seeing the rush, it has been re-introduced,” said a State Bank of India official in Central Delhi.
Security personnel were deployed at many bank branches as the cash crunch has led to violence in many places with customers venting their anger on bankers and infrastructure.
CH Venkatachalam, general secretary of the All India Banks Employees’ Association said bankers “are under tremendous pressure” from customers demand.
“They are being attacked by customers for no fault of theirs,” Venkatachalam added.
In the country’s economic hub, Mumbai, too, long queues were seen at banks with people lining as early as 8.30 in the morning. Banks open at 10 am.
Long queues were seen outside banks and some ATMs in Wadala, Sion, Parel, Kandivli and in the western suburbs in the city.
While Saturday and Sunday are regular weekend holidays, banks remained closed on Monday for Id-e-Milad.
A private sector banker said that although about 95 per cent of the two lakh-odd ATMs have been recalibrated, there is cash shortage due to logistics issue. ATMs are fed only once a day and most of them are running out of money shortly due to heavy withdrawals.
Bankers on the condition of anonymity said despite assurances by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the government, they are not getting adequate cash from currency chests to meet the withdrawal pressure.
(With agency inputs)