Queues continue at banks, RBI blamed for delays
Mumbai, Nov 13 (IANS) Taking advantage of a Sunday working day at private and public sector banks, tens of thousands thronged banks and ATMs to exchange the spiked Rs 500 and 1,000 notes or make cash withdrawals.
Moved by the plight of the waiting millions, many bank branches have resorted to measures to ease their customers’ misery, but a top bank union leader accused the Reserve Bank of India of not rising to the occasion.
“There are around 125,000 branches of public, private, regional and rural banks across India and 20 RBI regional offices from where currency chests are dispatched to all these locations. But that is not happening quickly enough although RBI has received full currency stocks from the printing presses,” said All India Bank Employees Association Vice President Vishwas Utagi.
He said the bank staffers have been working non-stop for up to 18 hours daily since November 10 without sufficient routine breaks for meals or even going to the toilet as they catered to the massive rush of people.
“However, due to inadequate supply of currency notes from the RBI, the banks are made to wait, and in turn, customers are forced to wait. But it is the branch-level staff who face the public wrath. The government must probe why the RBI is failing to perform its national duty,” he demanded.
The situation is worse in mofussil and far-flung rural areas where there are few bank branches and very limited ATMs and people are unable to exchange old notes or carry out banking transactions, he said.
Apparently concerned over their customers’ welfare, some banks have belatedly but gradually started implementing various measures as queues are likely continue for some more days.
The Axis Bank has set up priority banking for senior citizens at all its 3,061 branches, erecting shades/marquees as the customers wait in the blazing sun, and also made arrangements to provide water and tea.
Some public sector banks have started mobile ATMs in parts of south Mumbai where people can withdraw cash before it moves to another location, thus cutting on queues marginally at branches.
Social organizations like Samast Mahajan have started offering water and light refreshments to people standing in queues.
A Sikh organisation also provides water and tea/coffee.
The measures have been welcomed by the public, shocked by the news of a 73-year-old man Vishwanath Vartak dying of heart attack while waiting outside a bank in Mulund on Friday and a male infant refused treatment in a Govandi hospital as the parents could not exchange the cancelled notes to pay a deposit.
All public and private banks worked on Saturday and Sunday, their regular weekly offs, and many plan to remain open next Sunday (November 20), said Utagi.
In fact, many Mumbaikars had to cancel their weekend plans to hill-stations and beach resorts this long weekend due to the demonetisation and its fallout.
Social and community events, marriages, engagement ceremonies and birthday celebrations took a hard hit in the absence of hard cash.
Small businesses, roadside stalls and street vendors including the omnipresent ‘chai-wallahs’ continued to sit virtually idle with barely any customers.