On the last day of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 50-day grace period to set right the demonetisation woes, the same set of problems continues to trouble people across the country over access to cash on Friday.
Many ATM kiosks remained shut, while those that did open their shutters had long queues outside, albeit shorter than what one witnessed during the early days of the demonetisation drive.
People complained that several banks were also handing out no more than Rs 4,000 per person, unmindful of the weekly limit of Rs 24,000 that has been officially permitted.
The banks simply said they had no cash.
“My experience at ATMs has been frustrating — minimum one-two-hour wait. I went to my bank today and despite arguing with the manager, I was only allowed to withdraw Rs 4,000,” said Sudhir Mehta, an executive in Mumbai.
At Lajpat Nagar in New Delhi, Sanjiv Sethi, who runs an electronics goods showroom, was pleading with his bank that he needed all of Rs 24,000 to pay his part-time staff. “I should have sent someone daily to withdraw Rs 4,000 at least,” he was heard mumbling.
In a televised address to the nation on November 8, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that all Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes were being demonetised, along with norms to deal with such old notes. The intention was to curb black money in the system and move towards a less-cash economy.
Overnight, Rs 15.44 lakh crore or 86 per cent of the currency in circulation then was declared illegal.
A week later, when the magnitude of the problem at hand became evident, Modi made an emotional speech in Goa, promising to set right the problems soon. “I’ve just asked for 50 days. Give me time till December 30,” he said.
“I understand the pain. But this is only for 50 days.”
December 30 being the last date for people to exchange or deposit their old currency notes with banks under Modi’s note-ban norms, hordes of people were seen making a last-ditch attempt towards this end. Some banks set up additional counters to deal with old currency.
All eyes and ears now await Prime Minister Modi’s speech on the eve of New Year, durig which he is likely to spell out what next on demonetisation.
“Hope, he relaxes some of the norms,” said Kartik Chandrasekhar, a manager with a private sector company in Chennai. “Being denied what is mine — I mean the deposit I have in my bank — is highly improper.”