It’s been a month since Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the demonetisation announcement in a televised address to the nation, but the cash crunch that followed it is showing no signs of relenting.
Most ATMs in the tricity are running dry, and people are forced to wait in queues for hours, without any assurance of getting the cash when their turn comes. Many leading private banks have in fact placed ‘no cash’ board outside their offices.
In Chandigarh, there are around 500 bank branches and 700 ATMs. In the morning, there was no cash at almost all ATMs in the bank square in Sector 17. Serpentine queues could be seen outside the cashless ATMs of the State Bank of India (SBI) and Punjab National Bank (PNB).
“I am standing in the queue since 9.30am, and now it is 12.30 pm, but there is no cash in the machine. I have been waiting for three hours outside this ‘empty’ ATM, just to withdraw Rs 2,000 (the daily limit). Why is there no system in place?” said Ganga Devi of Kansal village who was visiting the SBI branch in Sector 17.
“I had to travel all the way here as none of the ATMs on the way were functional. Yesterday, my husband took a half-day leave from office and kept standing in the queue, but when his turn came, the ATM ran out of cash,” she said.
Next to this queue, there was another long queue outside another empty ATM of the SBI.
Shivani Thakur, a resident of Sector 20, who was standing in that queue, said: “There is no cash in any ATM in my sector. I also visited Sectors 22 and 35, but all ATMs were non-functional there too. Finally, after checking all markets, I have reached Sector 17. to my dismay, the situation is same here.” Shivani had been waiting outside the ATM for nearly three hours.
“Yesterday, I waited in a queue for two hours to withdraw Rs 2,000, and today I have been waiting for more than three hours. This is sheer harassment. Banks are refusing to give cash. I cannot meet my monthly expenses standing in queues for a pittance daily,” said Prakash Singh Negi, a private factory employee .
The long queue outside the PNB ATM started moving at around 12.30pm, when the machine was finally filled with cash. HDFC meanwhile, displayed a board stating that there was no cash in the branch.
In Panchkula, queues outside banks and ATMs are only getting longer by the day.
At the Sector 11 branch of the ICICI Bank in Panchkula, the queue had moved much beyond the entrance by afternoon. Other bank branches in the sector also witnessed long queues. Out of cash, many banks were returning their customers empty-handed.
Around afternoon, only the Corporation Bank ATM was operating in Sector 11, while those of ICICI, Syndicate Bank, Bank of Baroda, Yes Bank, IndusInd Bank, Vijaya Bank and Oriental Bank of Commerce were without any cash.
In Sector 10, only the SBI ATM was operational, while none was dispensing cash in Sectors 6 and 8 in Panchkula.
‘No cash’ boards hanging outside the ATMs also disappointed residents in SAS Nagar. In fact, most banks had run out of cash by 11am, while long queues were witnessed outside ATMs.
Traders and businessman are feeling the pinch owing to cash crunch, with sales estimated to have come down by around 50%. “It is a tough phase for traders, as business has gone down. There is no money in the market. We are hopeful that the conditions will improve by the year-end,” said a Chandigarh-based trader.
Getting limited cash, say bankers
Banks have been ruing the fact that they are getting limited cash. The branches that used to get ₹25 lakh from the treasury are getting just Rs 4 lakh a day.
“With Rs 4 lakh, you can attend to just 40 customers. So we are running out of cash in an hour. This has been happening for the past many days,” said a Panchkula-based bank manager, on the condition of anonymity.
Despite requests from banks to their customers to withdraw only the amount that they need, many people have started “hoarding” the new currency. “They are withdrawing more than required. It is adding to the crisis,” said another bank manager.
Banks say their requests to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to send additional cash has failed to yield any positive result. Employees at a bank in SAS Nagar said they are facing the heat, as on being denied cash, customers are misbehaving with them.
“Usually, SBI ATMs are always functional, but today the supply of cash was less, leading to the problem,” said a bank official in Chandigarh.