Demonetisation throws life off gear in Gujarat

Ahmedabad, Nov 9 (IANS) The sudden decision of the Narendra Modi government to demonetise the currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 threw life out of gear in several cities of Gujarat on Wednesday, even as in a bizarre show of protest, AAP activists made cattle eat such notes.

Many local markets in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Rajkot remained closed because of liquidity problems since the banks and ATMs were closed on Wednesday.

The rush at petrol stations continued after the prime minister’s announcement that petrol pumps would accept Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. However, though many petrol pumps were accepting the notes, they demanded that customers get their vehicle tanks full.

Local Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) activist Raju Zunja, who participated in the party’s protest at Astron Chowk here, said this was done to express their anger at the government’s sudden move that gave virtually no time to the common people to exchange their notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination.

He claimed that many cattle keepers also joined the protest as they were angry at the move. Notes of Rs 500 and 1000 worth around Rs 10,000 were given mostly to buffaloes to eat.

However, many onlookers called this a hollow publicity stunt. One of them Deepak Bhavsar wondered that they were destroying the notes when they could be exchanged in banks. “In fact, it should be investigated whether these notes which were fed to the buffaloes were genuine or fake,” he said.

Though the authorities have made provision for exchange of notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 and time has been given, people were found to be in a hurry to get their money converted to lower denominations. Some people reportedly used this opportunity to make a fast buck.

One such person, requesting anonymity, said he was a salaried employee and that he could take take notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 to later get them exchanged through his bank account. “I am lucky I had notes of Rs 100 to spare, which I gave to my neighbour as a goodwill gesture loan.” He took a nominal “service charge”.

“My neighbour told some others and they approached me. Without even my asking, they offered me some commission. Some of them were rich people, so I accepted it and have made some money,” he said.

Yet another such person in Ahmedabad said “people were desperate for their daily cash needs. Many were ready to accept even Rs 450 for Rs 500 and Rs 950 for a Rs 1000 note”.

On Tuesday night, scuffles were reported at ATMs, petrol pumps and jewellery shops in Ahmedabad and Surat. Police had to intervene at several places and ordered jewellery shops closed in Ahmedabad when they were accepting old notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 past midnight.