Fifty-five-year old Rasheedan of Ferozepur Namak village in Mewat does not remember the last time she had to wait in a long queue before Friday. On Sunday, she failed to exchange her two demonetised ₹500 notes despite waiting outside a branch of the Syndicate Bank for the third consecutive day.
“I came day before yesterday. I came yesterday too. After standing in the line for hours leaving my children at home, I have not been able to get ₹1,000 to buy fertilisers,” Rasheedan, a mother of three children, said holding a currency note exchange form.
The plight of most residents of Mewat -- Haryana’s poorest district where digital transactions are unthinkable and half the population is illiterate -- is similar to Rasheedan’s. They are faced with a daily struggle of fetching currency worth a few thousands after the Centre scrapped ₹1,000 and ₹500 currency notes.
Spread over three assembly constituencies - Nuh, Firozpur Jhirka and Punhana on Delhi-Alwar road, Mewat is home to 10 lakh people, most of them agriculturists.
Amid complaints of non-cooperation, branch manager of Syndicate Bank, Nand Kishore Sachdeva, has been trying to get cash from the Gurgaon office for the last two days. “We have requested ₹20 lakh. We received cash last on Friday,” he said. The branch is allotted only ₹10 lakh a day.
A few miles away at a branch of the Punjab National Bank (PNB) in Nuh, Akbar, 65, a farmer, has been travelling seven kilometres daily from Rehna village to exchange demonetised notes worth ₹4,000 for the last three days. Even as he stands in a serpentine queue on Sunday afternoon, he is not sure if he would reach the counter.
“I have been here since 6 am. My legs are already hurting. As it happened in the last two days, I fear that they (bank) will stop dispensing cash before 3 pm,” he said.
Unlike urban pockets where aspirations are higher, the people of Mewat are only trying to get hold of a few usable notes to make ends meet. The on-going wedding season has added to the woes of many.
“We are asking for just a couple of thousands so that we can meet our daily needs. They (banks) are only catering to privileged customers,” Liyakat Ali, 50, from Ghasera, said as he waited outside a branch of the HDFC in Kanwarsika village.
The staff at 106 branches of nationalised banks in Mewat has been unable to cater to the huge demand because of man power shortage and paucity of cash. Most bank branches in Mewat cater to three villages on an average. Dealing with the furious customers waiting in queues outside has become the biggest challenge for them. After minor altercations were reported between customers and bank staff, police and private guards have been deployed.
Owing to the cash crunch, Meos, as residents of Mewat are popularly known, procure essential commodities promising to pay later.
“The milkman agreed that he will take money later,” Nafees Ahmad of Nuh who works at a bank, said.
Considering the needs, some banks are keen on distributing more ₹100 notes than ₹2000 notes. HP Goel, the manager of PNB bank at Nuh said he has put in a request for just Rs 100 notes to his higher authorities.
State Bank of India (SBI), Nuh, branch manager Manohar Lal Yadav, said his bank had a stock of ₹100 notes for the next five days.
Mewat deputy commissioner Mani Ram Sharma acknowledged the cash crunch but he is confident that everything is under control.
“I and the superintendent of police (SP) took a tour of the district. There are long queues but things are under control,” he said.