It was mayhem outside the Punjab National Bank at Shivpuri area where thousands of residents made a beeline to the bank for a currency exchange (Rs 500 and Rs 1,000) and cash deposit. In their bid to force their way inside the bank through the main entrance people were seen indulging in verbal spats and launching physical assault on each other on numerous occasions.
Rehmat Ali, 42, a worker at a hosiery firm on Noorwala Road has been standing in a queue since 8am, but till 2pm he could neither deposit his cash nor exchange his currency. It was Ali’s second day off from his work to get his banknotes exchanged, he lamented that he did not have enough money to buy ration (essential commodities) for his family.
Ram Prasad, 35, a helper at an electrical shop at Shivpuri area had a similar tale to share, “I do not have anything to feed my kids. Since, I don’t have a bank account, Rs 2,500 (`500 and Rs 1,000 notes) which I have cannot be deposited, while attempt to open a bank account had also been futile as officials at three different banks have denied opening an account.”
“The only choice I am left with to convert my money into legal tender is through currency exchange, but I have been taking off from my work for the last two days and despite reaching the bank at 7:30am, I have not been able to exchange my banknotes. We have been standing in the queue for more than seven hours now, but people coming after us have pushed their way to the main entrance of the bank and if confronted, they are ready for a fight,”said Prasad.
The cops visited the area in the morning and brought some order by arranging visitors in queues but as they left, the situation was back to square one with chaos ruling the entrance of the bank.
The situation turned awry at the PNB (Punjab National Bank), Feroze Gandhi Market when a few visitors indulged in physical assault against each other and the matter was resolved only with the intervention of bank staff and other visitors.
With banks running out of cash, residents had a terrible time as even after waiting for hours they could not get their currency exchanged and in turn preferred depositing cash in their bank accounts. Withdrawers shared the similar fate as except for a few ATMs at banks, a majority of them remained closed, and the one’s which dispensed cash were emptied within hours. However, HDFC’s ATM on Mall Road and PNB at BRS Nagar were among a handful others in the city that kept operating till late night hours where the residents lined up till the ATMs stopped dispensing cash.
After the union government scrapped banknotes with higher denominations, it instructed public as well as private sector banks to remain open till 6 pm. But a few banks in the city do not seem to be taking these instructions seriously. In one such incident, Ajay Wadhwa, a hosiery businessman at Sundar Nagar said, “I went to deposit cash at the IDBI bank around 5:15pm but the bank was already locked and hundreds of visitors were waiting outside. We waited till 6pm, when the manager of the bank said that we remain open till 4pm only, you may complain against us.
FILLING STATIONS SELLING PETROL FOR Rs 500 AND Rs 1,000
The executive members of Ludhiana Petroleum Dealers’ Association may have issued guidelines to the petrol pump owners to accept Rs 500 and Rs1,000 banknotes but the latter are accepting these notes only if the vehicle occupants are ready to buy petrol for Rs 500 and Rs 1,000. Left with no choice, the vehicle occupants yielded to the filling stations unreasonable demand and preferred buying petrol worth Rs 500 and Rs 1,000.
The staff at the petrol stations expressed inability to return the balance amount to the vehicle occupants. At few petrol pumps in the city, commuters resented this move and entered in a verbal spat with the petrol pump staff.
Jewellery shops continue to remain shut for second day
A day after I-T sleuths raided at popular jewellery brand of the city, who in turn surrendered unaccounted cash running into crores, the jewellery shops in the city remained closed on Saturday as well. The suspecting illegal cash transactions after currency were scrapped by the union government, I-T sleuths have braced up against tax evaders and more raids are likely to be conducted in the coming weeks.