Bank holiday gives Monday blues to cash-strapped metros

The country woke up to Monday blues of a different kind with banks remaining closed for Gurpurab which exacerbated the agony of those in desperate need to exchange demonetized currency.

black money crackdown Updated: Nov 14, 2016 14:12 IST
Bank holiday,Demonetisation,Cash
(Pratik Chorge/HT Photo)

The country woke up to Monday blues of a different kind with banks remaining closed for Guru Nanak Jayanti which exacerbated the agony of those in desperate need to exchange demonetized currency.

Many ATMs have also not been replenished. People who had planned to queue up outside ATMs early in the morning, had to return disappointed as shutters at many locations were down.

“Why did they allow the bank to shut down when they know how people are struggling to even buy basic grocery items? How long are they going to take us for granted? I woke up at 4:30 am to rush to the ATM so as to avoid queues, but did not get cash anywhere,” Ankit Girdhar, a resident of south Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar said.

Read | Govt relaxes cash withdrawal norms, move may help small businesses

He said his maid, milkman and the newspaper vendor have been asking for their payments. “How are they supposed to get by with limited cash when I cannot?” he asked.

ATMs inside metro stations in the national capital also disappointed those who made a dash for cash early morning.

“When I came to the Dwarka sector 12 metro station, the SBI ATM was vacant. I was delighted till I put my card in and the machine flashed ‘no cash’,” Aditi, a resident of Dwarka said.

The security guard tried to calm her down, “The banks are shut, how will they refill the machines?” he said. “The bank staff came in yesterday to put money in the machine but the queue was so long that the cash exhausted within a few hours. I am not sure if they will come back today,” he added.

Last week, finance minister Arun Jaitley had said that it could take up to three weeks to calibrate ATM machines across the country to dispense the new banknotes.

People commuting to work were the most affected as they were hoping to withdraw some money before starting out for work. Petrol pumps, however, may offer some respite as the volume of traffic is low in the morning.

Live coverage | Day 6 of currency switch: Pressure on ATMs due to bank holiday

In the country’s financial capital Mumbai, authorities are working hard to minimize the trouble for the people.

“We have made the changes in the limit of withdrawal increase to Rs 2,500. In cities where bank are shut, we already stored cash from banks in a secure place and started loading from 6 am. We may face challenges in Tier-3 and 4 cities,” said an official spokesperson of SecureValue India, a subsidiary of AGS Transact Technologies.

However, banking officials said that ATMs are likely to open in the second half of the day, although there is no elaborate information on the same.

The cash crunch has also hit Mumbai’s auto rickshaws and cab drivers. Drivers of black and yellow taxis, three-wheelers and taxi fleets complained of falling business as people are avoiding travel due to lack of liquid cash.

“At least 50% of our overall business has reduced in past 2-3 days. It could be because of the long weekend and also unavailability of sufficient cash due to which some drivers chose to remain off the road. Besides even numbers of people traveling have fallen,” said A L Quadros, general secretary of Mumbai taximen’s union.

Read | Give me 50 days over scrapped notes, punish me if problems persist: Modi

But fleet cab services seem to have come out of the storm after initial hiccups. “There has been some impact initially. However, since our billing system is well integrated with Paytm, FreeCharge, MobiKwik and Citrus Wallet now it is getting normal,” said Siddhartha Pahwa, group chief executive officer (CEO) of MERU, Mumbai.

Autorickshaw drivers have also been badly affected due to unavailability of cash. “Most of the transaction in auto trade happens in cash like paying EMI, insurance or buying spare parts due to unavailability of cash at least 20% of drivers are remaining off the road. The share-a-rickshaw business is slightly better,” said Shashank Rao, leader of Mumbai autorickshawmen’s union.

First Published: Nov 14, 2016 14:10 IST