Chaotic scenes could still be seen at banks and ATMs as people queued up for hours to get valid currency notes to meet their daily expenses, even as the government on Thursday lowered the exchange limit of defunct bills and eased certain restrictions on withdrawal norms.
On the 9th day of demonetisation, bank branches and cash vending machines are still struggling to manage huge rush. Adding to the woes, most ATMs were either dysfunctional or running out of cash. It is taking people around 1-2 hours to withdraw Rs 2,500, the upper limit set by the government.
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Bankers are saying it may take another 10-15 days to get all ATMs re-calibrated to dispense high denomination notes of Rs 500/2,000. Mirroring state of affairs in the country, branches and ATMs at seat of power like Parliament House, Finance Ministry and other ministries also have long queues for the withdrawal.
However, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley yesterday said the rush at bank branches has come down significantly and that there is absolutely no panic. With the government and RBI struggling to ease cash availability, the small businesses – from vegetable vendors to dhabas and small kirana stores – that use cash as mode of transaction were the worst hit.
People faced inconvenience in purchasing milk, vegetables, medicines as they did not have adequate small currency notes. At various hospitals across the country, patients and their family members are facing inconvenience in buying medicines, food and availing transportation.
A bulk of daily labourers were rendered jobless as construction and other activities came to a standstill in the wake of cement, sand and other supplies not coming in. Truckers too were reportedly stranded on highways as drivers ran out of valid currency notes, affecting movement of goods in several parts of the country.
To ease inconvenience to the people, government yesterday allowed witdrawals up to Rs 2.5 lakh for weddings and up to Rs 50,000 for farmers but more than halved the limit of exchange of defunct notes to Rs 2,000.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on November 8 surprised citizens by announcing demonetisation of 500 and 1,000 rupee notes and since then large number of seemingly unending queues before banks and post offices are seen in order to exchange these currencies. Select bank branches across metro cities have already started applying indelible ink on the right hand index finger of people who are exchanging notes.