Residents started queuing up outside banks across Gurgaon since early Thursday morning to exchange notes of Rs500 and Rs1,000 demonetized by the government on Tuesday evening. The move also had a considerable impact in the city’s markets where most of the businesses were starved of customers.
To take stock of the situation, the district administration also a held a meeting with bankers in the evening to discuss measures with regard to exchange of Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes with new notes of Rs500 and Rs2,000, and to ensure that adequate steps were taken so that customers don’t face any problems.
With Gurgaon being a corporate hub, bankers suggested that more currency be supplied to city branches by the Reserve Bank of India to meet the high demand.
Earlier, long queues started forming from 7am itself outside bank branches in Palam Vihar, Civil Lines, Sector 22, Sector 31 and in most upmarket areas including MG Road, DLF City, Sushant Lok and Sohna Road across the national highway. The numbers kept on rising throughout the day and large crowds persisted even at closing hours.
To manage the rush, Gurgaon police had deployed personnel at the branches and kept PCR vans on regular patrol.
Despite banks deploying extra staff and counters, customers had to wait for almost two to three hours in queues as it took a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes to complete a single transaction. There was also confusion with regard to the documents and forms to be submitted for exchange of notes. Most banks did not provide photo-copying facility.
To manage the crowd, the State Bank of India branch in Palam Vihar issued 20 tokens at a time. Meanwhile, at the Punjab National Bank branch in Civil Lines, notes could not be changed in the morning and bank officials only deposited cash from customers.
“We came in the morning and had to return, but the notes were exchanged later in the afternoon,” said Vijay Kumar, a trader from Sadar Bazar.
The Canara Bank branch on Gurudwara Road near Sohna Chowk had posted guards at the entrance besides setting up three counters to deposit cash and two additional counters to exchange notes. Deposit forms and other information were also made available.
Due to the rush, some branches ran out of cash within hours. A bank customer, Manoj Khera, tweeted, “11.27 am cash finished at HDFC_bank sector 51 Gurgaon”.
At branches of Kotak Mahindra Bank and the SBI in Sector 31, new notes were exhausted by 2pm.
“The bank has given me a token and asked to come back on Friday to complete the transaction,” rued Sukhchain Kaur of Sector 31.
The lack of information and sheer numbers were also overwhelming. “I am running a high fever, but still came to exchange notes as there is no cash to buy medicines and food,” said Paramjeet Kour, complaining that the forms needed for the exchange were not available.
A majority of people HT spoke to in Gurgaon said the demonetization had inconvenienced them, but they supported the government’s crackdown on black money.
“This is the right decision at the right time. There will be some inconvenience for the common man, but it will help the country in the long run,” said TN Wali, a senior citizen from Palam Vihar.
However, migrant workers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were left confused. “I am a contractor and get paid only in notes of large denominations, which are now useless. What should I do?” said Ram Chander, who is from Bareilly in UP. He also wondered how much money he could send home.
Meanwhile, in the city markets, vendors too approached cash transactions with caution. A dosa vendor in Sector 31 was seen asking customers whether they had change even before they ordered food. However, petrol pumps in the city did good business as they were allowed to accept the Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes.