All hell breaks loose at ATM’s and banks as country comes to standstill

NewDelhi,Nov14: Noisy scenes outside banks, automated teller machine (ATMs) kiosks and regional offices of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) continued on Sunday, as people queued up hoping to get some cash.

A bank holiday on Monday only aggravated the situation as panicked customers stood hours outside branches to deposit and exchange cash. Since it was a Sunday, the rush outside branches was higher than the previous three days. Police had to deploy more personnel to maintain law and order.

There were reports of people clashing with bank officials in Uttar Pradesh even as the law enforcement agencies continued to conduct raids and seize large cache of sums in demonetized Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

In Muzaffarnagar in western Uttar Pradesh, angry people clashed with bank employees and threw stones at the branch at Sujru village, leaving three people injured. Over a hundred people have been booked for the incident.

In metro cities, police mobile vans were pressed into monitor any possibility of unruly crowds outside ATM kiosks and bank branches. As these are replenished only once a day, ATMs were running out of cash in two-three hours as people, worried about the paucity of cash, were withdrawing money from more than one account.

As people queued up from daybreak, women and senior citizens were the worst sufferers, reported PTI.

“I was compelled to go to the bank as I had very little cash, but a long queue at the branch deterred me,” said Suniti Gupta, a Kanpur resident.

Many daily wage earners were forgoing their earnings to get cash from banks. Most of them had only Rs 500 or Rs 1,000 notes, which have ceased to be legal tender since last Tuesday night.

As the wait in queues got longer, frustration was turning into anger.

Cash economy all across the nation has almost come to a halt as people hoarding Rs 100 notes — the only ones to be dispensed by ATMs. In a bid to discourage people from doing so, the RBIassured there were enough Rs 100 notes and that it should not be hoarded.

One of the worst hit in the present demonitisation exercise has been the transport sector. Truckers complained supplies of essentials such as fruits, vegetables and grains would be from Monday onwards if the situation did not improve.

At present, trucks were moving but they were facing difficulties as there was scarcity of cash with drivers, vendors, labourers and authorities.

The situation looked unlikely to improve in the next few days. Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday said it would take up to three weeks for ATMs to function normally.

Senior executive with cash management firms said putting cash in the ATMs had been hit as bank staff was swamped by pressures at branches. It was taking more time to get money that needed to be carted to ATMs, especially at off-site machines. Only about a third of the machines were be replenished these days.

There was an increase in use of electronic payment channels.

The use of point of sale (POS) terminals had seen sharp rise at State Bank of India (SBI). A senior SBI executive said the per-day volume, which was 1.1 million two days ago, shot up to 2.2 million on Sunday. Axis Bank said in a statement a rise in alternate channels of transaction like net banking had occurred.

In metro cities, grocery shops and even vegetable venders were using PoS machines but trade in smaller towns seemed to have collapsed.

As customers fought it out in kilometer-long queues in front of ATMs, sectors such as FMCG, construction, steel, logistics, transportation and auto — the back end of the country was seen struggling to get going due to the liquidity crisis.

Particularly, large retail markets across the country saw footfalls dropping drastically.

Bankers were doing their best to serve the customers. Branches were opening at 9:30 am and the employees were leaving only 10-10:30 pm.

Banks had opened multiple counters to serve the customers, while employees who were on leave were either recalled or had voluntarily come back.

The palpable desperation among people running out of cash had given rise to another set of corruption. Not only black money holders, even common people were exchanging old notes at a steep discount.

Both the RBI and Indian Banks’ Association (IBA), the apex bankers’ lobby, assured people there was no need to panic.

“The Reserve Bank assures… that enough cash in small denominations is also available at the Reserve Bank and banks. The Reserve Bank urges that public need not be anxious; need not come over to banks repeatedly to draw and hoard; cash is available when they need it,” the central bank said in a statement on its website.

IBA, in a statement, said banks were making all-out efforts to ensure that the currency requirements of customers and public at large were met.

“In the last three days of working, nearly Rs 30,000 crores cash has been disbursed in currency notes of lower denominations and newly introduced Rs 2,000 notes. The ATMs are being recalibrated to handle new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 denomination notes,” IBA said in a statement, requesting the public to use cards and net banking as much as possible for their requirement.

“All our branches and staff are extending their best possible efforts in helping and comforting the citizens with utmost dedication and devotion,” Canara Bank Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Rakesh Sharma said in a statement, adding, the branches have been strengthened with additional staff, including by retired personnel, to efficiently handle and meet the “extraordinary crowd”.