One dies as northeast India continues to reel under cash crunch

Agartala/Aizawl/Silchar, Nov 19 (IANS) Amid the continuing cash crunch in the northeastern states in the wake of demonetisation, an ailing tribal man lost his life in Tripura on Saturday as his family did not have enough money to shift him to a hospital in the state capital.

Manoranjan Debbarma, 61, was admitted on Friday to a government hospital in Kamalpur town, where doctors advised his family members to shift him to Agartala government medical college.

However, his family members could not withdraw enough money as banks refused to make any exception to the set guidelines, a close relative Shyamal Debbarma told reporters.

It’s been 11 days since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the withdrawal of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on November 8. However the people in semi-urban, remote and rural areas the northeast India are still reeling under a cash crunch as neither banks nor ATM kiosks have enough cash to dispense.

“As banks are putting mostly Rs 100 notes in ATMs, within a few hours the automated teller machines are getting empty. Otherwise, most of the ATMs and the banks have reasonable amount of currency notes with varied denominations including new Rs 2,000 notes,” United Bank of India’s (UBI) Chief Regional Manager and Deputy General Manager Mahendra Dohare told IANS.

“The situation in the entire northeastern region is gradually improving day by day. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is also providing currency notes of varied denominations,” Dohare said in Agartala.

On people refusing to accept Rs 10 coins, Dohare said that people should accept the coins as these are not at all fake or duplicate. “The RBI has also asked the people to accept the coins without any doubt,” he added.

In Mizoram, long queues of people were seen in front of bank branches and ATM kiosks since early morning.

In order to deal with the cash crunch, a section of traders in eastern Mizoram, bordering Myanmar, have asked the people to use pieces of paper as promissory currency notes to replace official currency till the situation improves.

“We have to find an alternative solution as the cash crunch has hit both the sellers and buyers hard. It is not possible to trade anything unless we evolve an alternate system,” P.C. Lalhmachhuana, owner of a hardware store in Khawbung semi-township (in eastern Mizoram), told reporters.

“Local people are happy with the informal system. The papers bear the value of the amount and the signature of the buyers and sellers on them,” Lalhmachhuana added.

Several opposition parties held demonstrations in the region against the central government’s move to ban high denomination notes and demanded that the crisis should be resolved immediately.

In Silchar, (southern Assam), though the situation has slightly improved in the four districts in Barak Valley, huge queues of people both outside bank branches and ATM kiosks still continued.

“The banks in Barak Valley have been disbursing huge number of currency notes with denominations of Rs 2,000, Rs 100, Rs 50, Rs 20 and Rs 10. Gradually, rush in the banks and the ATM booths is reducing,” State Bank of India’s regional manager Pradip Kumar Pal told reporters in Silchar.

“After the availability of new Rs 500 notes in the banks and the ATMs the situation would improve greatly. However, the new Rs 500 notes are yet to come in the RBI’s regional office in Guwahati.”