Saturday was meant to be their day to make withdrawls and get their hands on much-needed new currency. But senior citizens were left empty handed as most banks in the city stopped dispensing cash by noon. Most ATMs also remained non-functional while those which worked were cleaned out in two hours.
A day earlier, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had issued directions that Saturday would be reserved for senior citizens and bank account holders to exchange currency. However, barring those customers who stood in queues early morning, most customers, including the elderly, failed to get fresh currency due to paucity of new notes.
Bankers admitted that the decision to remit money to Gurgaon from the RBI chest in Chandigarh, rather than from Delhi, which is closer, has considerably slowed down distribution.
The logistical problems of transporting cash from Chandigarh can be gauged from the fact that it take five hours for a vehicle to cover Gurgaon and additional one to two hours are spent for the money to be loaded. This means a van can only make a single visit in a day, thus adding to the chaos.
However, they maintained that sufficient currency has been dispatched by the reserve bank and the situation will ease by Monday evening.
The assurances were of no comfort to those standing in lines and they were angry about the inability of bankers to overcome the shortage and share information in a timely manner. “I have been standing in queue for the last three hours but the staff now say that they don’t have cash. This information could have been shared earlier,” said Diwakar Rai, a resident of Sector 31.
A majority of those standing in queues said the quest for cash proved futile as most banks did not receive fresh notes on Saturday.
“Only a few senior citizens could exchange cash and, by 11am, everything was over,” said Payal Singh, an IT engineer and resident of Sector 22.
After 1pm, most branches in MG Road, Sector 31, 15, 14, 23, 22, Palam Vihar, Sector 4 and 5 near the railway station only accepted deposits and did not allow withdrawals.
“I went to bank around 2pm but there was no cash. The senior citizens must have a separate facility at banks,” said Shiv Narain Mishra, 62, Sector 14.
A senior official of a nationalised bank admitted that the primary reason for problems was poor cash management. “On average, each branch gets only Rs4 lakh to Rs5 lakh in fresh notes every day and this is inadequate. Transferring banned notes is also a problem,” he said.
On weekends, the branches in Gurgaon witnessed longer lines as corporate executives also join the queues. People also complained that pace of transactions at branches is almost static as at least 10 minutes are spent on a single transaction, which further frustrate peole.
RP Sharma, regional manager, Sarv Haryana Gramin Bank, said sufficient cash has been issued by the RBI chest in Chandigarh, which will ease the situation by Monday evening.
“I can assure our customers, a majority of whom are in rural areas, that they will get cash as per norms without any trouble,” he said.
While bankers are optimistic of the situation easing soon, those standing in queues are keeping their fingers crossed.