The bank managers of Tamil Nadu are having a tough time. Pongal is just two days away and preparations are in full swing. Demand for cash has gone up even as supply of cash to banks has dwindled — leaving the bank managers to manage the increasing numbers of irate customers.
Four days ago, about a hundred people who failed to get cash from SBI’s Anna University branch entered the bank manager’s cabin and issued threats. Police were eventually called in.
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A senior police officer said students, staff and even patients from the nearby Adyar Cancer Institute were among those who created the ruckus. “We are getting similar calls often. Luckily, there are no organised mobs,” he said.
The supply of currency to bank branches has touched a new low, and most ATMs remain cashless. Many branches have put up ‘No Cash’ boards, while others are restricting distribution of cash.
B Raghuraman, president of Tamil Nadu Government Employees’ Association, was at SBI’s PWD branch near Marina Beach. He said that about 1,000 staffers in the Chepauk campus — that houses the revenue, agriculture, municipal administration, PWD and excise departments — are unable to go back home as they have not got salaries. “Forget the Rs 3,000 Pongal allowance or DA arrears, we are not even getting our salaries. Some 3,000 account holders are begging to get a pittance from their accounts for over a week. Will the railways and state buses accept debit cards?” he asked.
According to an official at Anna University, one of the exam controllers picked a fight with the manager of a nearby nationalised bank on Wednesday as he was unable to get cash for exam purposes. However, the fighting did not help — the bank was unable to dispense the required cash.
SBI’s Anna University branch caters to 10,000 employees, teachers and students of the university, University of Madras annexe campus, two other institutions, half a dozen government departments and patients from Adyar Cancer Institute.
A bank staffer was seen trying to pacify a university staffer who came with a bundle of cheques for clearance. Another official at the bank refused to talk to the media. “They (bosses) will finish us off. Sharing information will put us in trouble,” he said.
According to a senior official at the SBI headquarters, “As the currency shortage has existed for over 60 days, demand has doubled while supply is down.”
An official of a nationalised bank near Marina Beach that handles 15,000 accounts of government employees and 100 top government secretaries and police officials was seen being bullied by a group of customers for not clearing cheques for over 200 people. “I have 500 other cheques, including those from IAS officers and ADGPs. All I got today was Rs 3 lakh. I need Rs 10 lakh to meet half the demand,” he told the union leader of the bank employees.
Protesting against a tight-lipped management, the State Bank of India Officers’ Association on Thursday wrote a letter to the Chief General Manager of SBI saying they may consider closing branches “particularly in sensitive areas, if we cannot arrange necessary security and adequate cash”.