A small mark of indelible ink will be applied on the right hand index finger of those exchanging currency notes to prevent multiple cash withdrawals, a government official said on Tuesday.
“Ideally, the ink mark should have been put on the left hand as is done when a person casts his vote. But with by-elections due in some states, an ink mark for exchange or withdrawal of currency note on the left hand will lead to unnecessary difficulties. So it has been decided that the ink mark would be put on right hand,” the official said.
Banks in major cities will start marking note exchangers with the ink from Wednesday.
The government is struggling to deal with the deluge of people lined up to exchange or deposit cash after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a surprise recall of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes last week.
Economic affairs secretary Shaktikanta Das said earlier in the day that it was noticed that the same people were coming back again and again to exchange notes.
The ink manufactured at the Mysore Paints and Varnish Ltd --- the firm that has supplied indelible ink to the Election Commission since 1962 to mark voters --- will be made available to banks and post offices from Tuesday night.
Also, an expert committee comprising of officers from the department of economic affairs and the department of financial services are preparing standard operating procedure (SoPs) for ink marking as well as additional steps to be taken to manage the crowds
But many political leaders criticised the fresh move, saying the process will affect the bypolls.
By-elections to four Lok Sabha seats --- Cooch Behar and Tamluk in Purba Medinipur district in West Bengal, Shahdol in Madhya Pradesh and Lakhimpur in Assam --- will be held on November 19.
As many as eight assembly seats in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Tripura and Puducherry will go to polls on the same day.
“What will the Election Commission say about this decision to put indelible ink on prospective voters?” West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee asked.
“There is desperate attempt to start a ‘black mechanism’ with indelible ink. It shows this government distrusts the common people.”
MK Stalin, DMK treasurer and leader of opposition in Tamil Nadu assembly, described the move as “authoritarian”.
“Marking people with ink without trusting them is atrocious. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is running his government saying he trusts the people and today’s announcement by the Centre is an authoritarian one,” he said.
In a letter to the finance ministry later in the day, the Election Commission said the government should ensure that use of indelible ink on people depositing money in banks does not create problems for the voters.