Samudu Harijan, a 60-year-old maize farmer, took an auto to the State Bank of India ATM at 11 am on Sunday. About five other villagers from Kosagumuda block hopped in with him. Harijan waited in line for two hours but returned empty-handed. The queue was a bit too long for his comfort.
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“Yesterday I went to Utkal Gramya Bank at Rajoda village to exchange old notes, but the branch manager said there were no new notes,” said Harijan.
Basanti Kumari Dei, 62, a pensioner from Gadabaguda village, visited the Nabarangpur main branch for the last five days to exchange a part of her pension payment. “I found it difficult to stand so long. I have a few Rs 100 notes left, but they won’t last long,” said Dei.
While the cash crunch is being felt across Odisha, districts like Nabarangpur have been hit harder. Nabarangpur is arguably one of the poorest districts in the country, and was the focus of an assignment by The Indian Express to track poverty and transformation. About 4,500 of Odisha’s 6,200-odd grampanchayats don’t have bank branches while Maoist-affected districts like Nabarangpur and Malkangiri have around 20 per cent banking coverage. Nabarangpur has just about 60 branches of various banks. The SBI’s main branch in Nabarangpur is the biggest in the district, but that too does not have enough cash to meet the rush for more than 10 days.
SBI chief manager Abhimanyu Sahu said the branch was only catering to its own customers. “Since it’s a Maoist area, we have not been given Rs 2,000 notes and are managing with Rs 100 notes. We badly need more Rs 100 notes and new Rs 500 notes,” he said.
The SBI is feeling the heat as ATMs of most other private banks are shut. Only a few ATMs were functioning, and the queues were very long.
Small businessmen were feeling the heat too. Purusatti Harijan, who has a betel shop in Basalguda area in the town, said he had earned very little in the past five days. “I have a bank account, but could not stand in the queue for long as I had to open my shop. I don’t have an ATM card,” he said.
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