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Currency ban: From weddings to medical treatments, all on hold in Mumbai

mumbai Updated: Nov 10, 2016 00:56 IST

Hotel owners at Dadar put up notices that Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes will not be accepted on Wednesday. (Satish Bate/HT)

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement, which he thought was a way to declare war on black money, turned out be harrowing for many. Here are a few people who landed in trouble because of this uncalled for change.

Shabana Pathan with her eight-year-old daughter Arshiya. (HT Photo)

Latur labourer asked to leave ₹1,000 note with chemist for 3 days

At the time the announcement was made, Shabana Pathan, 27, was travelling to Mumbai from Latur with her eight-year-old daughter Arshiya, a kidney patient who was due for her routine check-up at KEM Hospital in Parel.

With one note of Rs1,000 and two notes of Rs100, Pathan had a hard time managing her travel to the hospital from the station. “We reached Mumbai at 7am and realised that people were not accepting cash. I couldn’t figure out why. We took a share rickshaw and somehow reached the hospital,” said Pathan, a widow, who works as a labourer for a Rs200 daily wage.

After meeting the doctor, when Pathan went to buy medicines, the pharmacist asked her to leave her Rs 1,000 note with the shop and come back later for change. “They asked me to collect the change money three days later. But, that is all the money I have. If I leave it here, how do I pay for our stay here and our food,” said Pathan.

After repeated requests to the pharmacists and citing her problem, the pharmacist returned the change, but other patients were compelled to collect the change later. “We do not have any change left and most of them are paying in cash,” said the pharmacist.

Cassandra Nazareth, a resident of Borivli, who decided to halt midway on her way to Mumbai from Goa after facing problems. (HT Photo)

Travellers stranded with no food, petrol

Cassandra Nazareth, 55, a resident of Borivli, who was on her way to Mumbai after vacationing in Goa, said she came to know about the currency ban enroute. “We had withdrawn cash in Rs500 and Rs1,000 denominations since we were on vacation and one cannot use plastic money everywhere. Now, we can’t buy eatables or have dinner or lunch at restaurants that do not accept cards. Secondly, the petrol pumps have long queues of motorists and it’s taking hours to fill petrol in vehicles,” said Nazareth. She added that they have been informed about the long queues at toll booths since most motorists who have been travelling from last night don’t have currency in small denominations. “A friend of ours who was supposed to meet us at Kolhapur came four hours late due to toll booth queues. We are thinking of halting midway for a day,” said Nazareth who was heading to Kolhapur.

Never visited a bank, Bandra house help panics

Najma K, a 30-year-old house help from Bandra, received her salary two days ago in entirely Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes. She was scheduled to take a train to Kolkata on Thursday, for her annual visit to her family, and had planned to take the cash with her.

“Now I don’t know what to do with that money,” she said. “I don’t have a bank account, and I called home… no one there knows how to exchange the notes in our village. We are all very nervous.”

Najma’s employers have explained to her that she can go to any bank in the country and exchange the notes, but Najma said she’s never been inside a bank and the idea of walking in to one is unnerving.

“We’d like to help Najma but with the banks closed, we can’t help her exchange the notes in the city before her departure date, and we can’t part with that much in hundreds because we have our own cash crisis on our hands,” says homemaker Fathima Mansood, 35. “We don’t know how much we’ll be able to withdraw. We’re worried that banks might not even hand out the minimum cash allowed because there’s bound to be long queues at all ATMs and counters. With the timeline still vague and the dates tentative, we are scared to take any chances with the usable money we do have.”

That leaves Najma stuck with no cash she can use. “I’m planning to cancel my tickets,” she says. “I will have to first find someone to help me out with this.”

Wedding in limbo with florist, caterer’s payments stuck

Charmi Dedhia, 26, a content writer from Sion, had extensive plans for her younger brother’s wedding, scheduled for November 29. She and her family had withdrawn large sums of money to pay the caterer, florist, jewellers and decorators. Now, they’re stuck with piles of ‘illegal’ Rs 500 and Rs1,000 notes that no one will accept, and mounting dues.

“Over the next two days, I was supposed to make payments for the décor, caterers, jewellers and all kinds of other services,” says Dedhia. “Now, none of my payments are being accepted — and the banks are closed, so I can’t even withdraw more money to make payments. The caterer is threatening to pull out from the wedding, because even when the banks do open I can only withdraw Rs4,000 per card and that’s not enough.”

As a desperate step, Dedhia will try to crack deals with service providers to take the large denominations as a concession, and charge her for their inconvenience. “I will have to negotiate and ask the jewellers and wedding planners to take payments later, because their fee is huge and they are not willing to take the old notes anyway,” Dedhia said.