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Pilgrims in Haridwar feel heat as ATMs go cashless

Majority of the ATMs of public and private sector banks in Haridwar have gone dry creating problems for thousands of Chardham-bound pilgrims who reached the district Wedesday on the festive occasion of Akshya Tritiya

dehradun Updated: Apr 18, 2018 22:55 IST
Sandeep Rawat
Sandeep Rawat
Hindustan Times, Haridwar
Uttarakhand News
Customers waiting for their turn outside an ATM in Rishikesh on Wednesday / HT (HT Photo)

Majority of the ATMs of public and private sector banks in Haridwar have gone dry creating problems for thousands of Chardham-bound pilgrims who reached the district Wedesday on the festive occasion of Akshya Tritiya.

The Chardham Yatra began Wednesday with the opening of the portals to Gangotri and Yamunotri.

As majority of pilgrims rely on cash during the pilgrimage, ATMs going dry has come as a shock. Majority of 300-odd ATMs in the district are ‘cashless’ with either shutters at the kiosks closed or notices put up indicating ‘no cash’.

Sohanbhai Bokhiriya from Porbandar, Gujarat, arrived in Haridwar Tuesday evening. Accompanied by five family members, he was busy looking for ATMs at Shiv Moorti square near railway station. He had already visited 10 ATM, but failed to withdraw any cash.

“We took a halt in Delhi where we visited historical monuments. We paid for taxi rides and the lodging at a guest house in cash. We didn’t know about cash shortage in Uttarakhand, otherwise we would have surely withdrawn some from ATMs in Delhi,” said Sohanbhai.

Similarly, Padam Singh Thakur, a retired security personnel, was seen standing near a closed ATM kiosk of SBI at Devpura. He was looking to withdraw vash for some relatives who had come to Haridwar for festive bath.

“There is no cash in the ATM. Bank officials told me that they will replenish cash in a day or two. I wanted to withdraw some money and lend it to my relatives who have come from Champawat. They wanted to go ahead to Garhwal hills but have now decided to return home,” Thakur said.

Dharamshala Raksha Samiti office bearer Vikas Tiwari pointed out that majority of dharamshalas don’t have POS (card swipe) machines and they have reported a sharp fall in cash transactions over past one week. Donations, the other major source of income for dharamshalas, too have dried up, Tiwari said.

Tour operators also complained of many bookings for local sightseeing being cancelled by pilgrims citing cash crunch. Chardham tour operator Mahendra Bisht said that pilgrims were not going for local sightseeing as they want to save whatever cash they have for the pilgrimage ahead.

Garhwal Division Taxi Association president Kunwar Singh Tudiyal, meanwhile, urged government to ensure sufficient cash availability as taxi-tour business was heavily dependent on cash transactions.

“The association had approved a 15% hike in Chardham taxi fare, owing to rise in price of petrol and diesel. Now, we are apprehensive about the number of bookings that we will get from Chardham pilgrims,” said Kunwar.

The cash-crunch situation during the commencement of Chardham pilgrimage season doesn’t bode well for the state tourism, said Brahamswarup Brahamchari, spiritual head of Jai Ram Ashram.

Meanwhile, Gurukul Kangri University student union office bearers expressed resentment over non-availability of cash at ATMs on university premises.

Former student union leader Charchit Baliyan said students were facing problems in withdrawing money for their day-to-day expenses.

First Published: Apr 18, 2018 22:55 IST