There’s more to the Bihar floods than misery and death, it seems. As life at relief camps is getting prolonged, the flood victims need cash, while banks in north Bihar report the loss of more than Rs 50 crore to Kosi.
To fill the vacuum, comes the moneylender-cum-jeweller with his fat purse and canny wisdom. “Yeh hisab kitab ka samay nahin hai, jo mile lekar jao (This is not the time to think about the price. Take whatever you get),” a trader was overheard saying while dealing with a woman.
Raju Kumar Singh, a jeweller, said though the going gold price was around Rs 11,500 per 10 gm, he is offering between Rs 4,000 and Rs 5,000. But he is actually doing a social service, he claims, by offering hard cash in times of need.
On the other side of the fence, bank officials are spending sleepless nights over Rs 50 crore or more at 78 branches in north Bihar that had been taken over by the river. According to a bank official, “Each commercial bank branch maintained a cash level of Rs 1 lakh to Rs 10 lakh. Then, there are valuables in the lockers.”
The Kosi has become the keeper of the Reserve Bank of India currency chest at the Birpur branch of Central Bank of India, the lead bank in Supaul district. Bankers are carefully avoiding any mention of the amount of money the chest contained, but admit the amount was substantive.
Central Bank zonal manager Vipin Kapoor confirmed the bank had no clue about the state of the branch, since officials posted there had to leave on August 22 to save their lives.
Meanwhile, the queue in front of every jeweller’s at Saupal market is getting longer by the hour. But people are tightlipped about the prices being offered, as they are scared of thieves, too.