Logistics issues thwart distribution of currency notes

Mumbai, Nov 17 (IANS) Even if the government’s claim is believed that there are sufficient stocks of currency notes after demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, the logistics of transferring currency across the length and breadth of India has resulted in premature depletion of stocks of bank notes, official sources said on Thursday.

This exhaustion of currency stocks with banks and ATMs led to unending queues of people for the eighth consecutive day on Thursday.

The exact figures of the number of currency notes of various denominations — Rs 2,000, Rs 500, Rs 100, Rs 50, Rs 20, Rs 10 — despatched daily are not available. The central government refuses to give the details.

Explaining the logistics issue, the sources said that the first priority is receiving the newly-printed currency notes from the printing presses to the Reserve Bank of India’s 26 regional centres across India.

From there, the currency notes are shifted to designated ‘currency chests’ of various banks, identified by the RBI, based among various criteria on their available infrastructure, storage vaults and location.

There are around 4,400 such ‘currency chests’ of various banks spread all over India where the RBI sends the cash boxes for onward distribution.

From their respective ‘currency chests’, individual banks then despatch the cash boxes to all the branches, right up to the remotest rural one within their jurisdiction, the sources said.

The inability of the RBI and the banks to replenish notes in the chests as soon as these are distributed leads to the long queues at the banks.

In Maharashtra – which accounts for 25 per cent of the country’s total banking — there are around 30,000 public, private and regional bank branches, with nearly 150,000 employees.

The sources explained that for transferring huge amounts of cash daily there are issues of transportation, private and police security, occasional breakdown of vehicles, or other such problems, leading to local delays.

The problems are compounded by issues like the distance between the designated ‘currency chests’ and the far-flung branches, the local topography, some areas falling in Maoist-affected areas, among others.

Meanwhile, banks, ATMs and post offices continued to be plagued by long queues in Mumbai and other major cities across Maharashtra as harried people attempted to exchange the cancelled currency notes or make withdrawals.

So far at least six people have died in the state in incidents related to demonetisation, trade and commerce has been severely affected, social functions like marriages have been hit hard and commoners or daily wage earners are the worst sufferers.

In Maharashtra, the situation is bad even in mofussil areas where 3,500 branches of 31 district cooperative banks have been barred from accepting or exchanging the old notes, hitting the mainly three crore farmers and rural populace hard.