There was a mad rush at petrol pumps, ATMs, grocery shops, liquor shops and restaurants soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Tuesday that notes of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 would cease to be legal tender after midnight.
In Ghaziabad, there were long queues outside most ATMs in prime markets such as the Raj Nagar district centre as residents tried to get currency notes of lower denominations.
“The ATM is not dispensing Rs 100 notes. I want them as I have to go to office tomorrow and I heard that banks and ATMs will be closed for two days. I still have Rs 500 notes with me, but they will become useless and will only be deposited with banks. There is no option now... I might have to borrow from a friend,” Nitin Kaushik, a customer at an ATM at the Raj Nagar district centre market.
In Noida too, residents rushed to ATMs to fetch Rs 100 notes while they could.
“People are spending too much time in withdrawing money out of ATMs. They are trying to get Rs 400 at a time now. More than 100 people are queued outside the ATMs in Sector 18,” said Arun Budhiraja of Sector 29.
While ATMs had the longest queues, petrol pumps were not far behind. Vehicles piled up at Thakurdwara petrol pump and the one opposite it on GT Road in Ghaziabad by 9.30pm. Heated exchanges were seen between petrol pump staffers and commuters as the staff did not accept Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.
“My two-wheeler is already running in reserve and the staff here is not accepting Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. I don’t have the change or any other denomination of notes... I should go to some other pump or try to purchase a packet of cigarettes to get the change,” said a commuter, Sajid, at Thakurdwara flyover petrol pump.
The staff said every customer was paying in Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes to get lower denominations as change or trying to fill up fuel worth Rs 100 or Rs 200.
“There is no change left with us at this point and a lot of customers have arrived. The only option is that they get petrol for Rs 500 or Rs 1000. Otherwise we cannot pay off the change to everybody,” one of the staffers said.
After the government’s decision was announced, a majority of the shops in markets such as Gandhi Nagar, Turab Nagar, Raj Nagar District Centre and Navyug Market in Ghaziabad shut down by 9.30pm.
However, the smaller shopkeepers such as paan vendors and those running juice corners accepted notes of higher denominations believing in false information that the notes would become invalid only after December-end.
“I heard the news from customers... someone said the notes will be accepted till December-end and there was no issue in accepting them,” said Rakesh Tiwari, a shopkeeper at Ghanta Ghar.