Confusion and ill temper ruled the roost as thousands queued up outside Reserve Bank of India (RBI) branches across the country on Friday, the last day for select people to exchange notes rendered useless by the Centre’s demonetisation exercise.
The central bank had allowed citizens who were abroad during the November-December period last year to exchange the scrapped Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes till March 31, while June 30 was the deadline set for NRIs.
Though the bank had authorised its regional branches at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Nagpur to conduct the transactions, people were seen turning up with demonetised currency at centres in other places too.
In Delhi, police used mild force when the people queuing up outside its RBI branch turned unruly.
The premises of the RBI office in Chennai descended into chaos as hundreds arrived with scrapped currency notes. However, officials refused to entertain them – stating that the facility was available only for NRIs.
“The Prime Minister himself said we can exchange notes till March 31. Then why are they allowing only NRIs, and not those of us who still live here?” questioned Ganesh, a 53-year-old private sector employee. He had brought Rs 6,000 in scrapped currency notes with him.
In several cities, people who could not get their old notes exchanged earlier flocked to RBI branches to try their luck – hindering genuine claimants. While some claimed that they had found money tucked away in various nooks and corners of their residences, others said they could not deposit it earlier due to “genuine difficulties”.
Chaotic scenes were reported from Gomti Nagar in Lucknow, with police intervening to disperse people staging a protest outside the RBI’s regional office. The situation was similar in Kolkata. Among the hundreds in queue was 72-year-old Sunil Pal, who came to exchange money she had “saved secretly over the years”.
Many who turned up at the RBI office in Jaipur also returned empty-handed because bank officials would only entertain NRIs.
And then there were hobbyists like Manpreet Singh, who cultivated a passion for collecting currency notes bearing the number 786. However, Friday found the Jaipur resident frantically trying to exchange his collection for money that still matters. “I have been collecting these notes since I was a boy of ten. Now I have Rs 10,000 in such notes – but not a single one I can use,” he said.
(With inputs from Bhopal, Jaipur, Kolkata and Lucknow)