Passengers returning to Mumbai after Diwali vacation may face problems, as intercity bus operations have been affected by the shortage of lower-denomination currencies. The movement of goods — including essential commodities — are likely to be hit next week, said transporters.
The government has extended the deadline for accepting the Rs500 and Rs1, 000 notes to midnight, November 14. This is likely to improve the situation and give relief to transporters.
The Modi government’s earlier deadline to exchange these notes at petrol pumps and other establishments was midnight on Friday. Transporters had asked for the deadline to be extended as there was a shortage of the new currencies.
The Mumbai Bus Malak Sanghatana — one of the largest bodies of bus operators in the city — said they have been forced to keep their buses parked in the absence of cash.
“It is impossible for bus owners to operate. Intercity bus operations will collapse and come to standstill, creating huge losses for passengers and bus owners,” said Malik Patel, leader of the Sanghatana.
Patel said they had asked the government to extend the deadline, till the new currency notes were made freely available to the public.
The government has restricted cash withdrawals from ATMs to Rs 2,000. People cannot withdraw more than Rs10,000 from banks at a time and more than Rs20,000 in a week. Bus operators said they have no money to advance to drivers and cleaners.
Truckers said almost 30% of goods-carrying vehicles have been stopped as drivers and conductors do not have cash.
“Logistics and import-exports are hit. The movement of essential commodities has been affected,” said Baba Shinde, leader of transporters.
Shinde said transporters generally give Rs30,000-Rs40,000 — in higher-denomination currencies — to their drivers and cleaners for their daily expenditure. However, several trucks were stuck en-route as nobody, including government departments at boarder check posts, are accepting discontinued notes.
“Every driver does not carry their PAN card or Aadhar card with them, so they cannot even exchange notes at local banks,” said Shinde. He said it is impossible for the vehicles to continue the journey unless their owners manage to send them money via other trucks passing on the same route.