The Himachal Pradesh government Saturday pressed into service its official helicopter to ferry cash, including Rs 2,000 currency notes, to state’s remote tribal belt of Kaza and Pooh in districts of Lahaul Spiti and Kinnaur.
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Meanwhile, the situation has also improved significantly in rest of the areas, including state’s capital Shimla, with availability of more cash at the banks and ATMs also having started functioning well.
State government’s officials said Rs 9 crore had been made immediately available at Kaza and Pooh ahead of the upcoming snow season during which these areas are cut off from rest of the state. The helicopter landed at Kaza and also delivered the cash at Pooh, where shortage of currency notes at the banks had created serious problems for the tribals who stock necessary items before the snow season.
Vivek Kaul, zonal manager of UCO bank, the lead bank in the state, said, “Conditions have improved in most of the banks. There is hardly any serious shortage of the cash. Customer needs were being met through Rs 2,000 withdrawals. ATMs at a large number places have also been recalibrated to dispense Rs 2000 notes. Soon, Rs 500 currency notes will also be made available.”
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In rural areas too, things have shown improvement and there was no panic rush at banks.
There are over 1,790 ATMs in the state. Of the total of 16 ATMs on Shimla’s Mall road, at least 10 were functioning normally on Saturday.
Branches of main banks like State Bank of India, PNB, State Bank of Patiala, HDFC, Bank of India, Jammu and Kashmir Bank and ICICI bank saw no major rush.The queues were not as big as been four days back. Weekend tourists reaching from Delhi, Punjab and Haryana were seen at ATMs withdrawing cash without any hassles.
“Shimla is a paradise. We can’t withdraw cash in Delhi even after five to six hours. Here, it took 10 minutes to draw Rs 2,500” said Kartik Gupta, a tourist from Delhi.
State bank of India’s Deputy General Manager (cash) P K Mishra said the bank would receive more cash on Monday and conditions will improve.
UCO bank also received additional Rs 14 crore in cash. Punjab National Bank has started micro-ATMs at the Ridge to help tourists. “If there is any further demand from the banks in the tribal areas, more cash will be flown,” said Mishra.
Rationing of cash and inking of the customers have also helped cut down the long queues at the banks at Shimla and other major towns.
“By Monday, we expected the situation improving further. I have been regularly monitoring the cash availability and functioning of the ATMs with finance officials who are coordinating with the banks to rush additional cash in rural areas and wherever shortage is reported,” Chief Secretary V C Pharka said.
In Himachal Pradesh, there are 1.11 crore saving bank account holders at 2,037 banks branches.
Meanwhile, state’s Transport Minister G S Bali conceded that demonetisation decision had affected the state’s transport sector and daily income at HRTC buses had come down too.
Former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal had alleged on Friday that some officers of the transport department were pressuring conductors to exchange currency notes of higher face value with smaller currency notes.