Enraged over not being able to withdraw cash, hundreds of customers from around 10 villages thronged the Punjab National Bank (PNB) branch at Dhandran road and laid siege to the bank, not letting its officials to enter or operate throughout the day.
Queued up outside the bank for more than three hours (some of them since 5 am), patience of hundreds of customers (mostly villagers and elderly) wore thin as bank staff, prior to opening the branch, informed them that they did not have cash. The customers in turn sat on a ‘dharna’ outside the bank and raised slogans against the bank staff and the ruling government .
The staff said they have been getting meagre cash for distribution from their main branch, while the infuriated protesting customers demanded that bank staff must reveal everyday how much cash they receive and how much of it they will distribute among them. After negotiation bid with the customers failed, the bank staff was forced to stand in a ground nearby.
Gurmukh Singh (58), sarpanch of the village, said, “The customers visiting from around a dozen villages were already perturbed as bank staff had been allowing small withdrawals of ₹2,000 to ₹4,000, while there were a few customers who did not get cash even after visiting the branch thrice in a week. The situation turned grim today as even before opening the branch, the customers who had lined up outside since early morning were told by the bank officials that they do not have cash today.”
Karnail Singh (74), an ex-serviceman, said, “I am not even allowed to withdraw my pension money. As a result, the treatment of my grand-daughter had to be delayed.”
A grievous Singh, while showing his bank pass book, rued, “It’s been more than a week since I got my last withdrawal of ₹2,000, while there are people who are allowed to withdraw deposit cash out of turn by the bank staff every day.”
A farmer Ravisher Singh (72) said, “On every alternate day the bank runs out of cash. How are we supposed to manage our household expenses? At this age, standing in a queue early morning and braving the chill everyday to withdraw cash is not a viable option.”
A group of labourers lamented that they have been skipping work on alternate days for cash withdrawals but bank authorities did not seem to understand their plight.
Branch manager Vijay Pal Bhatia said, “We have been receiving less cash for distribution from our main branch. We try to cater to as many customers as possible by allowing small cash withdrawals as the bank has more than 15,000 customers.”