The central government’s announcement on Tuesday to declare Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes as invalid triggered panic in the tricity, with many shopkeepers, petrol pumps and restaurants refusing to accept these notes hours before the decision was to come into effect.
The HT team found that by around 9pm, owners of several eateries and fuel stations in Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali had instructed their staff not to take these notes even as the decision was to become effective from midnight.
Large queues were witnessed at petrol pumps in the three cities with people hoping to use some of their Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes. People also queued up at the ATMs to withdraw Rs 100 notes since the banks and ATMs are closed on Wednesday.
In SAS Nagar, residents were seen making beeline for petrol pumps and grocery stores to exchange currency notes.
“I have issued instructions to my staff to stop accepting currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 from today itself,” said Ashwinder Singh Mongia, owner of a petrol pump in Phase 11.
“The staff has been told to politely refuse if anyone offers these notes. The only option the customers are being given is either make the payment through card or pay in smaller denomination,” he said.
Some fuel stations and shopkeepers, however, started accepting Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes later after they got instructions that they can do it till November 11.
“I went to a grocery store and purchased items just to get the notes exchanged. Shopkeepers are changing notes provided we purchase from their shop,” said Shikha Sharma of Phase 2.
Due to heavy rush, staff at city petrol pumps were seen struggling to return the cash to customers.
“I got my tank full with Rs 1700 from the Sector 17 petrol pump. But I didn’t have Rs 200 change so I paid Rs 2,000 and the cashier asked me to return in the morning to get back Rs 300 saying they were short of change,” Anoop Arora of Sector 36 said.
Many customers facing the same problem exchanged heated arguments with the staff at the petrol pumps.
Long queues of people could be seen at banks for getting their cash deposited.
“I was at a dhabha when I heard the Prime Minister’s announcement. I rushed to my house in Sector 37 to collect Rs 8,000 and visited a couple of banks, but they were closed,” said Rajesh Nagpal.
“My wedding is a day after and I had to rush to the bank to deposit all my savings. I really got panicked,” said Harleen Kaur, a Sector-18 resident.