AFTER WAITING for an hour, 65-year-old Balwant Kaur managed to enter the Punjab Gramin Bank at Nijjran village in Jalandhar district on Sunday to exchange two notes in the denomination of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000. But, the moment she appeared before the manager, her hopes were dashed as the bank was not able to give her 15 notes of Rs 100 denomination. Expressing resentment, Kaur, a labourer, who cleans grain in the nearby market, said, “First, I went to Lambra Bank and now, I have come here. But the officials are saying that they neither have Rs 100 notes nor the new Rs 500 notes. Now, where will people like me, who doesn’t have currency worth Rs 2,000, go.”
She added, “Kal Gurupurav hai te sadhe ghar na kuchh khan nu hai na gurdware chadan nu (Tomorrow is Guru Purav, birthday of first Sikh guru, Guru Nanak, and we don’t have anything to eat or to offer at the gurdwara).” A dejected Kaur also said that she would request the kirana shop owner to give her some ration for which she would pay later.
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Roop Lal, 70, went to the same PGB branch with Rs 1,000 and met the same fate like Balwant Kaur. This time, though, a senior bank official, moved by his helplessness, managed to get his money exchanged with his own notes and coins lying in the bank. “I need some atta (flour) and I am really grateful to this bank official for helping me in this hour of need,” said Lal.
Similarly, Dinesh Kumar, a migrant labourer, who had come to withdraw Rs 3,000 from his account at PGB, could get only one Rs 2,000 note as the bank didn’t have any other notes. Another customer had come to withdraw Rs 2,400 but could get a Rs 2,000 note only. The bank, which opens at 9 in the morning and closes at 9:30 pm, could only help customers depositing money and those making payments of Rs 2,000 and Rs 4,000.
“We have 5,000 account holders, mostly poor labourers, landlords and some NRIs in our branch. But, we got only Rs 6-lakh currency in the denomination of Rs 100 notes which got exhausted in the first two days only and now for the past two days, we didn’t receive any Rs 100 currency,” said Kamal Kumar Bhatia, manager of the PGB, Nijjran village branch, adding that he understood the customers’ predicament as new 500-rupee notes were yet to be supplied and small notes were not available any more.
In the past four days, this PGB branch had received around Rs 1.20 crore in old currency notes (Rs 500 and Rs 1,000) and a payment of around Rs 37 lakh was made. The bank, which used to receive 60-70 customers daily earlier, are getting 200-250 customers daily nowadays. “Account holders of other banks are also coming to us in the hope of getting small notes but of no use,” said Bhatia.
“We appreciate this step of the Indian government because it will teach a lesson to the corrupt and those evading taxes. But, due to shortage of the new currency and old notes like Rs 100 and Rs 50, the common man and the poor are suffering a lot,” said Pawan Kumar, an account holder at the same branch, adding that there was a shortage of small notes at all banks in nearby villages.
In fact, this was the case in all other rural bank branches, including Lidderan, Nurpur, near Lambra, etc.
When contacted, Yogesh Sharma, the regional manager of PGB in Jalandhar Circle under which 63 branches fall in Jalandhar, Nawanshahr and Kapurthala districts, admitted that there was a huge shortage of Rs 100 notes in all branches of the bank and also the supply of new Rs 500 notes was awaited. He added that they were expecting the supply in a couple of days.
All the 63 branches have not more than Rs 25-26 lakh supply of the small currency notes like Rs 100 which is highly inadequate, said bank sources. “Things will become smooth once we get the adequate supply of Rs 100 and Rs 500 (new notes) in the next couple of days,” said Sharma, adding that they understand the problem of the common man but to clean the system, everyone has to bear the brunt for the good of the nation.