Queues at banks and ATMs ran as far as the eye could see on Thursday morning, bank staff worked without breaks and several branches ran out of money before lunch time, as thousands of Mumbaiites adjusted to a life without the Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes.
Banks across the country were shut on Wednesday to recalibrate their systems, following the government’s demonetisation decision, leaving many Indians without cash they can spend. When shutters opened on Thursday, hundreds lined up to deposit high denomination notes and withdraw cash.
“I have been standing in queue since 7am,” said Vishal Pujari, an Ahmedabad resident who moved to Mumbai seven months ago. The 26-year-old working with a consumer goods firm had no money left to pay house rent and domestic help. “I withdrew most of my salary in Rs1,000 notes. Until last night, I had just Rs100 left with me,” he said. Ramadheer Gupta, a factory worker, said he had to take a day’s leave to get some cash from the Borivli branch of State Bank of India (SBI). Mumbaiites said the long lines were frustrating. “Queues are not moving ahead. They are just getting longer,” said Rakesh Savardekar, who was waiting to withdraw money for three hours at a bank in Lower Parel’s Kamala Mills.
Some others, however, decided to stay away from the frenzy. “Why should I worry or hurry now? We have been given 50 days to deposit money,” said Nizamuddin Hussain, a taxi driver.
Mayur Shah from Jogeshwari, took half day’s leave to deposit his demonetised notes at an Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) Borivli West branch. “I feel the decision is good. But the pain we have to go through, even if it is for some days, should be highlighted,” Shah said.
Some banks were not prepared for the rush of customers and ran out of cash. Chandramani Jally, branch manager, at an IOB branch, said he forced the shutters down. “There were queues since early in the morning. We have called for more cash,” Jally said.
Prashant Khadilkar, SBI Borivli branch manager, said he had to ask for fresh stock of new notes twice before lunch. “More than 500 people have already collected their share. This is a panic run. Note exchange is more than withdrawal and deposits,” Khadilkar said.
He also said bank officials are working without taking lunch breaks keeping the serpentine queue outside always on the move. “We have been instructed to operate banks till 6 pm. This is a panic run. Some people are frazzled but the situation isn’t so bad to call for police.”