Two die in Kolkata queues as payday pain continues (Roundup)

New Delhi/Kolkata, Dec 2 (IANS) Two elderly persons died while standing in a bank queue in West Bengal on Friday as people, scrambling for money across the country, battled long lines outside banks and ATMs on the second day of a new month.

In Delhi and adjoining satellite towns, there were no queues outside many ATMs with the machines running dry and banks disbursing limited money as the government struggled to keep pace with the demand for cash.

The rush for cash has increased and the situation worsened since Thursday – the first payday after 86 per cent of the currency — 500 and 1,000 rupee notes — in circulation was declared illegal on November 8.

The wait in queues proved deadly for Rabin Mukherjee, 72, and Viswadeb Naskar, 80, who collapsed and died in North 24 Parganas district waiting for long hours to withdraw money.

Dozens of deaths, including cardiac arrests, suicides and hospital casualties, in the past over three weeks have been linked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise move to ban high denomination currency notes in a bid to curb black money and corruption.

There was still no respite for the salaried people and pensioners across the country even as they have got their remuneration but were unable to lay hands on their own money.

Banks ran out of cash within hours of opening in most of the areas of the national capital.

In south Delhi areas including C.R. Park, Green Park, South Ex, Malviya Nagar, Lajpat Nagar, East of Kailash and Safdarjung Enclave, most of the ATMs were not functional.

“In search of a working ATM, I travelled from Green Park to C.R. Park but failed (to get cash). There was no ATM with cash anywhere and I went to Malviya Nagar where one of the ATMs was being refilled. I waited there and got some,” Sunita Banerjee, an engineer said.

“I have to make payments to many people. I will have to wait in the queue to withdraw more cash daily so that I clear my dues,” she said.

People were agitated as banks rationed withdrawals — despite the government’s upper limit of Rs 24,000 a week.

A bank official speaking to IANS on condition of anonymity said: “The RBI had failed to provide cash to the banks. Otherwise, why would banks make people suffer?

“We have limited cash. If we give Rs 24,000 to every person, we will run dry soon and the people will get agitated and we will have to face the brunt.”

In a sign of desperation, a long queue waited outside East of Kailash branch of ICICI Bank even though it had put up a sign saying no cash was available. “We are waiting here in the hope that the cash may come anytime soon,” Deepak Sharma, an IT employee, said.

In Kerala, Finance Minister Thomas Isaac said many treasuries were running dry and couldn’t disburse salaries and pensions to most of nearly a million people.

“Today, a request for Rs 127 crore went to the banking authorities and, so far, Rs 57 crore were received. Fifty treasuries are yet to get the money.”

There are 157 banking treasuries in the state where almost half a million people and state government staff get their salaries and pensions through the treasuries, while the remaining half a million are linked to banks for these disbursals.