Cash crunch, long queues continue at Kerala banks, ATMs

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 15 (IANS) People in Kerala are turning restless, as their wait in the serpentine queues to deposit, exchange or withdraw money from banks and ATMs since the scrapping of high-value currency notes is turning out to be really long.

Tuesday once again saw long queues at ATMs in the state and shortage of cash, as over the past a few days, especially in the villages of the state.

People were apparently more upset following a fresh announcement of the central government, according to which indelible ink marks would be used to prevent people from making cash withdrawals more than the permissible number of times from bank counters.

State Finance Minister Thomas Issac reacted sharply to the new decision and said that this is going to further complicate issues.

“Instead of resolving issues, the Centre is creating more troubles through the use of indelible ink. The decision is a foolish one,” said Issac.

Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said the need of the hour is not to spread the ink on the fingers but to see that new currencies are launched.

“The ordinary people are in distress and it’s most unfortunate that they are seen as black money holders. Time is running out as people are losing patience,” said Chennithala.

On Tuesday, the youth wing of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) — Democratic Youth Federation of India — and the Communist Party of India (CPI) workers marched to the regional office of the Reserve Bank of India in the state capital, shouting slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Meanwhile 65 ATMs in the capital city of the State Bank of Travancore saw currencies of Rs 2,000 placed in the cash tray for the first time in the state.

Popular anti-corruption crusader and head of the Vigilance and Anti Corruption Bureau, Jacob Thomas welcomed the decision of spiking the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

“This will help fight the counterfeits,” said Thomas, who is on a mission to fight corruption and has taken on top politicians and bureaucrats.

Priya, a housewife in the capital city, said today (Tuesday) was the date to pay the fees of their children and they have no money to pay.

“My neighbour was generous enough to give me a cheque for Rs 5,000 and when we went to the bank to encash the cheque, we were shocked as the bank staff asked us to bring the account holder also to withdraw cash, along with an identification document.

“This has crossed all limits and we were forced to deposit the cheque into our account. Now, to get the money after collection, it will take at least three days,” said an infuriated Priya.

Meanwhile things appear to have gone haywire in the cooperative sector, as the 14 district cooperative banks has now been denied permission to exchange their customer’s spiked currencies.

In protest, the entire cooperative sector in the state will remain closed on Wednesday to protest the new move of the central government in withdrawing permission that was granted earlier.

“This is a concerted move by the Centre to help the new generation banks and hence this decision is being implemented. Let the authorities inspect the working of these cooperative banks.

“Through this decision, the cooperative sector, which was the backbone of the rural economy of Kerala, has taken a severe beating,” CPI-M state Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan told reporters.

The construction industry in the state, where a huge majority of the three million migrant labourers are employed, is also in a severe crisis.

“We are not getting our salary. Now we are left with no money, as it’s been a week since we were paid. Now please give us some food to eat,” said a group of migrant labourers in Thiruvalla.

However, the Kerala government has stepped in to help the people, as it has decided to accept the spiked currencies at petrol pumps and is also accepting those currencies for payment of bills.

“I got a call from a person who was standing at a private hospital complaining that they are not accepting the spiked currencies. When I spoke to the hospital authorities, they told me that they are helpless and if I get them new currencies, they will accept it.

“I told them to accept it and keep it with them without returning the balance amount, but their need should be addressed,” said state’s Health Minister K.K. Shylaja.

The agrarian sector in the state has also virtually come to a standstill as produce such as copra, cardamom, areca nut and rubber are not being picked up by buyers.

The daily auction of cardamom at Idukki was stopped on Tuesday as a cash crunch prevailed, denting the hopes of the farming community in the state.