Dash for cash in ‘City of Joy’ ends in disappointment for many

Kolkata, Nov 11 (IANS) ATM outlets of many private banks here remained closed or had boards reading ‘out of order’ on Friday, three days after demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes.

Bank branches, which had resumed operations a day before, saw a more than three-time increase in footfall and an almost five-fold rise in transactions as customers rushed to deposit, exchange and withdraw money.

People, who were expecting to draw the much-needed cash from the ATMs, which were slated to resume operations from Thursday midnight, braced up for another day without money as several outlets of even SBI were closed near the all-important location of Sealdah Railway Station on Friday morning.

“The ATMs in the vicinity of my residence are closed. I was hopeful that ATM outlets at a busy station like Sealdah would be working. Now I am in a fix,” lamented a passenger, who has to undertake a two-hour journey daily to get to his place of work.

As per the rule imposed by the Reserve Bank of India, each ATM card can be used to withdraw a maximum of Rs 2,000 in a day. However, the surcharge on ATM cards beyond five transactions a month has been waived for the time being.

Even some of the ATMs which were open, ran dry after a few hours, angering people who had queued up before the machines hours earlier.

The pace everywhere was sluggish. Customers were not certain whether they would be able to make use of the ATMs due to high demand.

“I am worried that ATMs might soon go out of cash as many have brought multiple cards with them to withdraw money,” said a man, waiting in front of an outlet for more than a hour.

According to bankers, it would take more than a week to completely flush out scrapped currencies from the ATM outlets across the country and fill them with usable denominations.

“It would take almost 10 days to bring normalcy in ATM operations”, said SBI chief Arundhati Bhattacharya.

Though some people in the queues commended the central government’s move to curb black money in the country, almost everyone agreed that their dash for cash would continue for at least a few more days.