In shawls and blankets, Burari locals queue up outside banks – and spend the entire night

With money running out and standing in ATM lines proving futile, people say this is the only way to exchange or get cash.

Written by Aditi Vatsa | New Delhi | Published:November 17, 2016 3:38 am
demonetisation, modi, pm modi, narendra modi, india demonetisation, currency ban, old currency, 500 note ban, 1000 note ban, atms, demonetisation effect, indian express, national news, india news Outside a bank in Burari, Wednesday. (Express Photo: Abhinav Saha)

As the temperature dipped on Tuesday night, 68-year-old Joginder Singh took a blanket from his home in Burari, walked 600 metres and sat on the steps of an Axis Bank branch. Thirteen years ago, Singh had sustained a back injury while working at a construction site. Now, he cannot stand for more than half-an-hour.

“We ran out of cash and shops are no longer willing to give us milk and groceries on credit. I have been sitting here since 9 pm, and I will wait till the bank opens in the morning. I have Rs 4,000 in Rs 500 notes,” Singh said at 1.15 am on Wednesday.

Burari, on the outskirts of the capital, has at least 15 branches and ATMs of private and government banks in a 2-km stretch. At 1.30 am, there was one functioning ATM in the area, with about 70 people in line.

Watch What Else is Making News

Others, like Singh, decided to set up camp elsewhere.

“You never know when that ATM will run out of cash. I can’t take a risk,” said Vijay, 40, a daily wage labourer sitting near Singh along with eight others, two of them asleep. “I stood in queues at two ATMs in the last three days but in vain. So I came here at 9 pm today. I have to get Rs 4,000 exchanged. For the last three-four days, my children have not had milk. We are just eating dal. What do we do, we can’t eat old currency?” Vijay said.

Less than 500 metres away, at the Canara Bank branch, Govind Ram, 50, is fourth in queue. Six days ago, Ram came to Delhi from Uttarakhand to see his first grandchild. “I cannot stay at my daughter’s in-laws’ house for too long. For the last four days, I have been trying to withdraw money or get old notes exchanged so I can pay for my ride back home,” Ram said.

Across the road, outside a Dena Bank branch, a group of eight young men sat around a bonfire. Next to them, on the bank’s stairs, three people slept under blankets.

The only thing they discuss is demonetisation, cash crunch and how to get fresh notes.

“What if they give us Rs 2,000 notes? No one is accepting those because they don’t have change,” said 19-year-old Rohit Kumar. “We favour the move, but the sudden effect it has had on poor people is causing problems. Rich people will not get affected,” he added.

While some live in the locality, others have come from far. A resident of Ghaziabad, 40-year-old Naushad Alam said he works at a garment outlet in Swaroop Nagar near Burari.

After work on Tuesday, Alam had dinner at a friend’s place and reached the Bank of Baroda branch to spend the night. “If my turn comes by 10-11 am, I will go to work from here. If not, I will lose a day’s salary. The office will mark me absent if I am more than an hour late,” Alam said. “All my money is stuck. You can stay hungry but how can you see your children hungry?”

Alam was among 50 people outside the bank at 2.15 am Wednesday. As the crowd swelled, people decided to assign a number to each person in the queue. “Everyone has been given a number and we will wait our turn. All of us need money but there is no point in fighting,” said 42-year-old Rekha Rai, a resident of Jharocha village near Burari.

Bipin Nath, 33, said, “The government could have set up camps for this kind of exchange? They could have done it over the weekend, deployed forces like they do during elections. We work the entire day and then come here and stand in queues to get our own money.”

Some locals claimed that a day ago, those spending the night outside Punjab National Bank had brought cots and blankets. While the cots were missing on Wednesday night, 40 people wrapped in shawls and blankets waited outside.

Nand Lal, 42, who runs a grocery store in Burari, said he shut shop two days ago. “Customers don’t have money to give us, suppliers are not accepting old notes. My son is waiting outside another bank. It will take me at least a month to procure goods and run my shop again,” Lal said.

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App

  1. B
    Nov 17, 2016 at 1:35 pm
    The small businesses takes the profit on a nightly basis, and induce capital daily morning. For these 50 days , they could broader their vision to invest now and reap the profits 50 days later. So writing off post dated cheques, accepting cheques from public, giving credits to retailers in terms of post dated cheques will come handy in normality of business. But the catch here is wait for 50 days to reap the benefits. This could be perceived as a 50 day small;br/gt;lt;br/gt;If small businesses don't want to have a strategy it is going to be pain. lt;br/gt;I say small business, but they are the one transacting in thousands and lakhs on hard cash. Working cl and poor people has arrangements and they are not impacted except for their 1 or 2 times visit to the bank.
    1. J
      Nov 17, 2016 at 4:10 am
      All those people who are suffering due to tughlaq order of modi are anti nationals.
      1. M
        Mahender Goriganti
        Nov 17, 2016 at 6:59 am
        How often these so called marginal people have to exchange 500/1000 notes for their daily needs?? How anybody noticed what this is all about ; a con story
        1. M
          Mahender Goriganti
          Nov 17, 2016 at 5:43 am
          While I do not dismiss the hardships, in some case exceptional nature, it is miniscule in country with 1. billion potiong in lighting strike killing a person is more than this. Chance of one dying for no reason is more than this. Moreover it is one time deal of discomfort for a better life and future for generations to come. lt;br/gt;Some Media and con politicians are desperate, gasping for oxygen, using such stories and Am admi as a smoke screen to protect their loots from poor and honest
          1. A
            Nov 17, 2016 at 5:19 am
            All people are nationalist who are standing in queue and criticizing the government. every one of them knows from heart what is wrong or right .Do people want raid in each house to catch black money ,if this would have than people would have faced another problem. i have Rs.400 in my pocket for last 4 days .i am getting regular milk from a milkman whom i pay at the end of the month . I buy vegetables/fruits once a week ,the shopkeeper outside my home, he has maintained a register and giving in credit to me and i will pay him back when i will have new currency .I am using old notes for payment of diesel/ petrol in vehicle ,the only thing i have to do is buy it in 500/1000 note only .Is it so difficult to buy fuel in 500/1000. I am not spending any unnecessary . I can travel by paying old notes in airlines/train/ Government buses. I feel bad because my wife cannot eat "gol gapa" and my children cannot have ice cream . I am also buying medicine from a chemist next to my house on credit and will pay him also on arrival of new currency. God forbids , if i have any medical emergency, i can go to any hospital and pay in cheque and no doctor can refuse me to treatment just beacuse i am paying in cheque . I have to take step to tell this to authority if any doctor is doing this ,Government will not help me ,till i ask for help. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;what is the big problem, none of these people accepting online payments , cheque still but wait for cash ? why , is online money and cheque is not valid money. I am applauding that these people are helping us no doubt but why they don't want to come in the system by accepting cheque or online money why ? Many of you will say how bad person i am that after getting help , I am not fair with them . The same question for all of us Do we feel in our hearts that what has happened is right or wrong ,our own heart will give the answer to all of us
            1. P
              Pradeep Vadi
              Nov 17, 2016 at 4:10 pm
              After coming to power Modi could have sent a strong team of 500 people to Switzerland in 30 days.Team consisting of finance experts,international law experts,diplomats,software experts andstation them for 6 months freeze the account as the names were already available.He gave bhashan of bringing back black monkey in 3 months.He did'n do it.He gave ample time to Swiss AC holders who transferred money out.He gave poor people of India 4 hours and had the temerity to sacrifice for the nation.He is a confidence trickster who loves to fool poor;br/gt;le
              1. Load More Comments
              Express Adda