Amid reports of people facing inconvenience in getting access to new currency bills as well as getting rid of the recalled old high-denomination notes held by them, local bank branches across the country are improvising daily operations to manage the sudden rush of customers.
A branch of the Central Bank of India in Ahmedabad, to ensure fairness for all those queuing up, started giving out tokens to those in line and entertained to their needs accordingly. A senior branch official said that this was done to deal with the increased customer footfall in an orderly manner, and prevent any ruckus among the citizens outside the branch, some of them who have had to wait for several hours for their turns. Similar to this, a branch of the State Bank of India in west of New Delhi allowed entry to only certain people at a time to avert commotion inside the branch premises.
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In another instance, a private sector lender in the capital, and two state-run lenders at Banda in Uttar Pradesh have imposed their own limits of cash withdrawal disallowing anyone to draw more than Rs 2,000 till the situation of cash supply improved.
At one of these banks, employees informed the public that they would not be allowed to withdraw any amount more than Rs 2,000. When a person insisted on withdrawing more than this, the bank employee said: “If you want more money, please come on Tuesday or later on. If we give anything more than Rs 2,000 per person, we would be out of cash, and it will lead to major problems here”. An official at this branch told The Indian Express that while sufficient amount of cash was being brought from currency chests in the morning itself, these limits were imposed to have a buffer and prevent any kind of emergent situations.
One such suggestion to have a separate queue for senior citizens was brought to finance minister Arun Jatiley’s notice at a press briefing in the capital on Saturday, to which he responded by saying that he would pass it on to Financial Services Secretary Anjuly Chib Duggal to convey it to the banks.
Some branches of a public-sector lender in tier-II cities such as Dehradun and Kanpur faced backend server issues with serpentine queues of people wanting to deposit their money or exchange older denominations, which prompted the employees there, instead of suspending operations, to engage in old-school banking using manual operational techniques.
However, there are also instances of people using means and ways to bypass the set norms by the government. According to a senior employee at a branch of a public-sector lender in Kanpur, owners of several manufacturing units there have been sending their workers and their relatives to deposit big amounts not exceeding Rs 2,50,000 per account. “Since this decision has been announced, many such workers and their family members are coming to us to deposit such huge amounts, which range from Rs 80,000 to Rs 2,10,000. These workers are under immense pressure from their owners,” he said.
Moreover, many contract workers have been paid their income in old denominations that have ceased to be considered as legal tenders. “Many such labourers came in today saying that their contractor gave them this amount. The workers could not protest as their contractor threatened to not pay them at all if they do not take the notes of old denominations. You can see that these workers, who have taken these old notes, are standing in the line,” the senior bank employee added.
The Income Tax Department has asked banks to report all cash deposits exceeding Rs 2,50,000 during the 50-day window provided to replace or deposit the now-defunct Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. Earlier, banks were required to report to the income tax department only when cash deposits in an account exceeded Rs 10 lakh in a year.
At his briefing on Saturday, Jaitley acknowledged the sudden “propping up” of funds in zero-balance bank accounts opened under the Jan Dhan Yojana and said that law enforcement agencies were looking into any illegal currency changers. “We are getting some complaints that suddenly monies have propped up in the Jan Dhan accounts, so there is a misuse and that is why the rationing in initial days takes place,” Jaitley said, adding that the concerned agencies would act if anything improper was found in the deposits.
Furthermore, the Reserve Bank of India has provided a portal to all banks to feed in details of customers exchanging their defunct currency notes for those accepted as legal tenders, in order to prevent breach of the Rs 4,000 per person limit imposed in view of short supply of cash. However, occurrences of people flashing different identity cards at different banks and branches to bypass this cap have come to light.