People, bankers in spot after RBI’s flip-flop adds to confusion

New Delhi, Dec 21 (IANS) It is being called Reverse Bank of India, Rozana Bungling of India or even Rollback Bank of India and customers as well as bankers were in a spot on Wednesday after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) partially withdrew its earlier order that restricted deposits of over Rs 5,000 in spiked currency notes.

The partial rollback came after massive public anger over the central bank’s December 19 order allowing the deposit of over Rs 5,000 in now spiked Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in bank accounts only once.

This too was possible only after a “satisfactory” explanation to at least two bank officials on why this was not done earlier since November 8 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced demonetisation ostensibly to curb corruption and black money in India.

But on Wednesday, the central bank made an exception for (Know Your Customer) KYC-compliant customers — meaning those who aren’t compliant with KYC norms will still be grilled.

The RBI order created an uproar because the government had earlier asked people to go easy because money in old denominations could be deposited till December 30 and there was no need to stand in long queues outside banks.

Bank employees and customers IANS spoke to said it has been a sea of confusion for them with the government’s and RBI’s ad hocism that has shaken the country’s faith in its banking system.

“I really don’t believe an institution like RBI, which is the trustee of our money, can do this,” Naresh Kumar Aggarwal, a chemist in south Delhi, told IANS.

Aggarwal had come to a State Bank of India (SBI) branch to deposit money in old currency notes. He said he was allowed to deposit but was still “interrogated by bank officials”.

“It is not about if I was able to satisfy them with my explanation. Of course, I did that. But why question me about my own money,” the chemist wondered.

An HDFC Bank employee in south Delhi, who didn’t wish to be named, said his office has dedicated one person for keeping check on RBI’s website to see if any order has been withdrawn or changed.

“I am not joking. There is so much confusion regarding what to do and what not do. We are under stress,” he said.

“Till Wednesday afternoon, we were doing what we were asked to do on Monday. People who came to deposit more than Rs 5,000 knew it was revoked and we were still waiting for a formal order. Arguments with angry customers was but natural,” Kumar said.

For many, anger gave way to sarcasm.

Vikas Sharma, a junior lawyer in Delhi High Court, said the central bank “needs an immediate name change”.

“Something that fits what it has been doing in the past six weeks. Call it the Reverse Bank of India. Afterall, it has been reversing its own decisions,” Sharma said standing in a queue outside an ATM outlet in Noida near Delhi.

Another man from the queue shouted: “Why not the Rollback Bank of India or even Rozana (daily) Bungling of India?”

Social media was also awash with criticism .

“Within two short months, the RBI has lost credibility and legitimacy built carefully over decades. Will take a long time to restore,” tweeted Sidharth Bhatia, a journalist.

Comedian Zakir Khan wrote about “59 new rules” in 43 days since demonetisation. “Bhai tum RBI ho ya boys’ hostel ke warden? (Are you the RBI or the warden of a boys hostel)”

–IANS

ruwa/sar/dg

Top