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The Bank of Baroda’s Kantharia branch in Bharuch locked out its customers for some time after an altercation when the cash dried up Thursday afternoon. This is the second incident after Wednesday, when the Mohammadpura branch of BoB in Bharuch city saw confrontations leading to police intervention, on similar grounds. With no sufficient cash in the branch, the bank officials had to face anger of the people who stand for longer time in queues with hope of getting their money from their own account.
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On Thursday morning, large number of people gathered outside the Bank of Baroda, Kantharia village, a kilometer from Bharuch city. The account holders demanded their money from the Branch manager who told them that the cash had run out which resulted in verbal altercations. The angry officials then locked up the bank.
Sources told this paper, that the bank was waiting for Rs 25 lakh that was on its way from Surat and had told the police to settle with the crowd that at once a customer would not get more than Rs 10,000. The bank manager also joined with police and explained the account holders that they will get money but after sometime.
“The bank reopened after the money came in,” BoB Kantharia manager Shrikant, told The Indian Express, “Today we have given out Rs 15 lakh to about 150 account holders?”
In the Mohammadpura branch on Wednesday, ? ?many of those in the queue had filled up cheques to withdraw more than Rs 24,000, which is permitted per week.
Bharuch B division police inspector N D Chaudhary said ?”?t?he bank officials explained the account holders that they did not have sufficient cash to give it to all the account holders. The bank officials also requested the account holders that each of them would get Rs. 5,000. This had led to ?people getting angry”. Chaudhary further added, “The Kantharia branch of Bank of Baroda also falls in my jurisdiction. The bank officials told me that they did not have cash and had intimated their head office in Surat. The cash had already been dispatched in a mobile van and I explained to the people it would reach soon.”
In Vadodara and Ahmedabad too, several branches ran out of cash despite rationing cash withdrawals. Bank managers complained that the cash reserves provided by the RBI for pay day were insufficient to meet the demand. An official of one nationalized bank in Mandvi area of Vadodara, said that as many as 300 customers had queued up within the first working hour on Thursday.
The official said, “We have been given cash reserves by RBI that will not suffice even 15 % of the crowd that we saw this morning. Although it was expected, the shortage of cash has forced us to restrict withdrawals to Rs 10000, and in some cases, even Rs 5000. We are telling customers to opt for cheque transactions and e-payments. But several customers expressed their anger at the helpless bank staff.”
Banking officials say that the government has been unable to meet the currency requirement of banks with four printing presses. SBI officials from Vadodara circle said that the branches in Vadodara city alone had disbursed cash upto Rs 22 crores on payday. That means, projected figures of all banks in the city put together would be Rs 110 crores worth of cash withdrawals, according to the ‘five times higher than benchmark SBI’s estimate of the Union Finance Ministry.
An official of SBI said, “We are facing an acute cash crunch and this month will prepare us to handle the rush for the January pay day as the situation will take a few more weeks to ease. We received only 20 % of the cash reserves that were needed to meet the withdrawal demand. To tackle the rush, we just ensured that our officers are trained in handling the people on first come first serve basis. The withdrawals are strictly capped at a maximum of Rs 10000 per account. Now, people are more interested in withdrawing than depositing money.”
The official said that to prepare for the pay day rush and anticipate numbers, the officials analysed the withdrawal trend since demonetisation. Although SBI branches did not report themselves cashless for the day, the ATMs of all banks went dry, including SBI. An official said, “Most ATMs in the city of all banks have been re-calibrated this week and are functional. However, the moment people find out that there is cash in an ATM machine, it runs out of cash immediately. There is no way to replenish it instantly, now.”
The Vadodara circle’s SBI mobile ATM was positioned at Undera for pay day. Jignesh Shah, a trader, who queued up outside a Bank of Baroda branch in the city said, “I had to wait for my turn for withdrawal for an hour. When I went in, I was told I can withdraw Rs 10,000 against my current account. I needed Rs 24,000 at least. This is the money i need to pay my employees with. I felt very disheartened as even three weeks later, we are literally begging for money from our own accounts. This situation has to resolve soon. We are not yet a cashless economy and it is resulting in huge losses to restrict cash withdrawals till the system is equipped.”
A housewife Pradnya Patel said she was queuing up outside a private bank in Manjalpur as banks were giving women a preference in queues. “My husband would have to take leave from his work for a day to withdraw cash for our household expenses. So, he said that I should queue up instead. Also, during our previous time in the queue two weeks back, we noticed that they gave preference to women and allowed faster withdrawals. Except for the restricted withdrawals, I am glad that I at least have some money in hand,” said Pradnya.