Customers damaged furniture at a state-run bank in Uttar Pradesh on Thursday and reports of public anger spilling over emerged from other places as the government struggled to meet the demand for cash on the first pay day since the recall of high-value banknotes.
Across the country, tens of thousands of people lined up at banks and ATMs raising fears of more chaos amid the severe cash crunch, sparked by the government’s decision that pulled out 86% of the currency in circulation.
Police guarded banks and cash dispensing machines in many places as mints failed to churn out enough notes to keep up with the demand.
Police said angry customers barged into an Allahabad Bank branch in Meerut when they were informed about the unavailability of cash. The people also broke the glass panes at the cash counter, bank manager Harendra Singh said.
There were reports of people blocking roads and staging demonstrations in Bijnore, Hapur, Moradabad, Amroha, Baghpat, Bulandshahr and Saharanpur.
In Patna, at many places salary earners waited in queues for hours for their turn. Among the most crowded was the SBI secretariat branch and its ATM.
In Shimla, government employee Satish Sharma said his salary was credited on Thursday but he could not withdraw the money through cheque. “I could only take out Rs 2,000 from the ATM. May be in the days to come the situation will ease,” he said.
On Wednesday, there were reports of angry customers locking up bank staff at a few branches in Tamil Nadu, UP and Bihar.
The All India Bank Employees’ Association admitted the “situation is getting out of hand”. “We have no cash…there is a huge shortage…this chaos will continue at least till the 10th (of this month),” said a senior official of a private sector bank.
Fearing backlash from customers, the Punjab National Bank Officers’ Association in Allahabad wrote to the CMD and CEO seeking adequate cash.
Most government and private sector employees get their salaries credited to their accounts on the last day of the month and millions of people were expected to withdraw cash to meet their immediate needs — such as school and medical fees, newspaper bills, and other sundry purchases. In India, 78% of consumer payments are made in cash, which the government is attempting to change.
Many private companies gave a day off to employees on Thursday to enable them to withdraw cash. Many people standing in queue outside banks said they had taken off from work to withdraw money as they had to clear pending bills.
In Kolkata, most ATMs either ran out of cash or were dispensing only Rs 2,000 notes.
(With inputs from Mumbai/Kolkata/Patna/Meerut/Shimla)