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Capital chaos in Delhi as cash stock runs out

delhi Updated: Nov 12, 2016 00:44 IST
Abhinav Rajput
ATMs

A line outside an ATM in Delhi. Millions of panicked consumers lined up outside banks and ATMs across India on Friday to exchange withdrawn banknotes but chaos ensued for the second straight day with poor cash flow and no signs of immediate relief.(aj K Raj/Hindustan Times)

New Delhi:

Jitu Sinha, 48, had to break his son’s piggy bank to pay for groceries since he was left with no money.

On Friday, he waited patiently for over four hours in an endless queue before the ATM at State Bank of India’s New Ashok Nagar branch to withdraw money. But before he could reach the ATM gate, the machine had run dry of notes.

“It is going to be very difficult from now on. I have asked for money from relatives but don’t know what to do now. I can manage grocery on credit but how do I manage my travel expenses,” he asked.

Jitu was among thousands of people who joined serpentine queues before banks and ATMs across the city on Friday to exchange 500 and 1000 rupee notes, which have been demonetized, or withdraw money from the machines.

People from all age groups and walks of life were seen in the queues -- some blaming the government for the chaos, others cursing the banks for their “inefficiency”. The massive rush, however, ensured that all ATMs were sucked dry within a few hours of being stocked. The ATMs remained closed on Wednesday and Thursday after the demonetization plan was announced by the Prime Minister on Tuesday.

Six of the seven ATMs on a street in east Delhi’s New Ashok Nagar had stopped functioning by afternoon. Outside the only State Bank of India’s ATM that was dispensing cash, over two hundred people were waiting in the queue.

Gautam Kapoor, 54, said, “We do not mind waiting in a long queue, but this could have been avoided if it was made mandatory for banks to open all their ATMs.”

Delhi’s Uttam Nagar saw nearly 400 people queuing up at a bank, some of whom came in as early as 6 am. A security guard said there was chaos because the ATM was situated inside the branch.

People who waited on the first day of banks opening after Tuesday, i.e. Thursday, saw no respite on Friday. All banks were crowded since morning with people who came to exchange the scrapped 500 and 1,000 banknotes with fresh bills.

Read: Banks struggle to handle panicked customers, ATMs run dry within hours

Cashing in on the opportunity, photocopy shops in Jangpura was selling the forms needed to exchange the money.

Unable to stand for several hours at a stretch, 60-year old Anju Devi sat under a tree after booking her place in the long queue. “What to do? My husband has gone to work. So, I had to come. I am standing here since 9 am and I haven’t got my money yet,” she said.

Dwarka residents faced a tough time as many ATMs were shut in the area. “The ATMs nearby are closed. Bank officials said cash would only come in by afternoon,” said Manoj who returned home from one such facility.

In Mayur Vihar’s Samachar Apartment market, many ATMs had exhausted their cash by 12 noon.

Pranay Pandey, 86, a resident of Gulabi Bagh said, “I am a diabetic and can’t stand for long. All I have is Rs 100. I came late hoping that the queue would shorten. But all the ATMs have exhausted their cash.”

It was a tough day for security guards as most people could be seen quarrelling with them after cash was over.

“What can I do? I am not the manager of the bank nor did I make this new rule. People are questioning me for money being over,” said a guard outside the HDFC bank branch in Saket.