Anger, disappointment and desperation amid chaos and confusion. That sums up the mood outside banks across Punjab as people stood in queue for hours on Saturday to exchange the demonetised Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes and withdraw cash in lower denomination.
For the third day, most ATMs ran out of cash due to the rush. Many ATMs were shut.
Daily-wagers were worst hit. “We are tired of hearing about black money. Sanu te matlab vi nahee pata, lekin sabto zyada dikkat sanu hi aa rahi hai (We don’t know the meaning of black money but are suffering the most). We are born to stand in queues,” said Jalandhar resident Kamla Devi.
Customers argued and scuffled outside Punjab National Bank’s Shivpuri branch in Ludhiana when few tried to force their way into the bank. Hosiery firm worker Rehmat Ali, 42, said he was in queue since 8am but could neither deposit cash nor exchange his notes till noon. It was his second day off from work. “I have no bank account. Neither do I have cash to buy ration,” he said.
Retailers and wholesale traders felt the pinch, too. “We have cut purchase to less than half. Retail vegetable and fruit-sellers are not lifting goods on cash. Prices have fallen, so have our profits,” said Kulwinder Singh, a commission agent.
Industry representatives complained their transactions were hit owing to less liquidity.
BANKS BRACE UP
Struggling to meet the demand, banks expect more rush on Sunday.
“We are loading lakhs in the ATMs but the cash just vanishes. More than 1,500 customers come for cash withdrawal and exchange to our branch and only 800 return satisfied. We need new notes of Rs 500 to make the inflow better,” said an Amritsar-based banker, not willing to be named.
“Yesterday, we packed up at 2.30am. The staff worked without a break,” said a Hoshiarpur HDFC branch head Jatinder Narang.
Banks have seen more customers operating lockers of late. “Earlier, six people would operate lockers in a day but for the past two days, over 60 have come,” the Amritsar-based banker said.
Jewellery showrooms in Ludhiana were closed for the second day after the income tax raids that led to the seizure of unaccounted cash running into crores. Suspecting illegal transactions after demonetisation, more raids are expected.
TAKING A TOLL
Despite the Centre extending the suspension of toll tax on highways till Monday, the toll plaza near Neelon was found charging commuters Rs 39 per car. The staff refused to accept demonetised notes. Toll was collected at barriers on state highways with no waiver order from the Punjab government.