Bina Madan is slated to get married on November 21. Hectic preparations are on at her house but Bina (name changed) is missing.
The bride-to-be is a bank employee and for over a week now, she has not been able to reach home before 11 in the night.
“Let alone a long holiday, I don’t even know if I will get leave on my wedding day. Leaves of all my colleagues have been cancelled. My seniors at the bank joke that I too might not get leave,” says Bina, who is an assistant manager at the Bank of Baroda.
Like Bina, thousands of bank officials and ATM managers across the city are working round-the-clock to help people get new notes after the government scrapped currency of 500 and 1,000 denomination from November 9.
Despite long work hours, no leave and high stress levels, bank officials draw the ire of the milling crowd outside. Lunch breaks are resented and offs are ridiculed. Mistakes have become frequent and at times, have to be paid out of their own pockets. Add to this the systemic problems and fatigue — the life of bank employees has become a nightmare in the last one week.
“My parents ask me to come early but I can’t even make it to normal time. I used to leave the bank by around 5.30pm and would reach home in an hour but for the past one week I have been reaching home at around 11pm,” says Bina. The bank does not provide any cab facility and public transport so late in the night is not safe, she adds.
With millions of currency notes being counted every day, the work hours at the banks are tightly strung. There is no time for breaks except a brief lunch hour and the pressure is gruelling. It is the cashiers who are bearing the brunt of this. According to bank rules, if a cashier fails to tally the cash collected with the amount recorded, the balance has to be borne by him or her. Cashiers also have to pay if they fail to detect a fake currency note.
Most bank officials say there have been increasing incidents in the past week of cashiers paying from their pocket due to calculation errors: at a State Bank of India branch, a senior cashier had to pay Rs10,000; at the Bank of Baroda, a cashier paid Rs 7,000; and at the Corporation Bank, a cashier paid Rs 14,000. A Corporation Bank official said that earlier, such incidents took place once or twice in six months and the amounts were smaller.
At the receiving end
A senior official at the Indian Bank said people hurl abuses when they are not allowed to enter the banks. “They should understand that we do not allow all of them to enter to prevent a stampede. If we will not eat how will we work?”
Banks across the country were open last Saturday and Sunday but were closed on Monday for Guru Purnima. “Monday was holiday but I still had to make all the arrangements to deposit money in the chest,” said an official at the Corporation Bank.
“People don’t understand. They abuse us on social media for taking a holiday but they should know that it is a job where fatigue can cause big errors. The difference of a zero can lead to big losses,” he said.
He added that there had been incidents at his bank where people deposited over 50,000 in Jan Dhan accounts. In such cases, the customer has to be followed and the money has to be returned, he said. The situation becomes even more tedious when the customer has not provided his phone number. “Imagine chasing a customer like this when the bank already has so much work,” he said.
“We feel sorry to see people who have to use lockers or get a draft made for their child for admissions or other things queued up with the hordes who come for cash exchange but what can we do?” he said.
The banks opened on Tuesday only to see even longer queues for exchange of old currency. “The only thing that keeps us going is that we know we are witnessing a fiscal revolution first hand. We will tell our grandchildren the tale of being at the bank during at the time of demonetisation ,” said a manager at Allahabad Bank.