For many Indians living abroad, and holding Indian currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000, the confusion and chaos is as much as it is back home. On Tuesday, soon after the government announced that existing notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 would no longer be legal tender from midnight, several expatriate Indians rushed to money exchange traders and banks to convert their currency. For Amey Pophale, 26, a student at the University of Illinois in Chicago, it was a futile attempt. He had Rs 10,000 in cash in Rs 500 denomination. “I went to three banks, Bank of America, J P Morgan and Agricultural Bank of China, and all of them refused to exchange money,” he said. Amey intends to send the old currency notes through his friend who is planning to visit India next month. “There is confusion here. Nobody is willing to take old currency,” he said.
Like him, Radhika Dhawan attempted to exchange money at the St Paul International Airport in Minneapolis, USA. She even enquired with Walmart for transferring money. Her request was declined with officials saying that the option to exchange Indian currency was temporarily unavailable.
According to the Reserve Bank of India, Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) have the option of depositing the Indian notes in their non-resident ordinary rupee account (NRO) while Indian tourists can purchase foreign exchange equivalent to Rs 5,000 at airport exchange counters within 72 hours of the notification. However, several foreign exchange centres have declined to exchange the old denomination notes in USA, Pakistan and New Zealand.
Chaitra Acharya, who lives in Volda in Norway, has to travel 71 km to Alesund where the closest exchange office is located. “Travelling here is expensive and I have no option but to travel to Alesund to exchange it. It is my hard-earned money and I don’t want to devalue it,” said Acharya, adding, “While black money holders are buying gold, land, luxurious cars and other stuff, it is the common man who is suffering. People who are not living in India have more problems in exchanging currency.”
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In Pakistan, the confusion is more intense. “Given the current state of Indo-Pak relations, I suspect converting Indian currency here will be difficult,” said Malik-ul-Ashtar, a resident of Karachi. His mother returned from India with Rs 5,000 in August. The family planned to use it in their next visit. However, money exchange traders in Karachi have now refused to accept the old currency.
“I went to a few individual exchange traders. They asked me to wait for a few days. Even though the amount I have is small, it doubles in Pakistani currency. It may go waste,” said Shireen Morbiwala, also a resident of Karachi. Several Indians The Indian Express spoke to said they will wait for the new notes to be unveiled abroad before trying to exchange currency again.