The daunting thought of the struggle to withdraw money on payday (December 1) pushed many to queue up at banks and ATMs a day earlier. Unfortunately, others had the same idea.
As a result, the rush for cash on Wednesday hit boiling point, giving the state government and police a preview for what may happen on Thursday, which has left them quite worried.
Hundreds lined up outside banks on Wednesday. “When I reached an ATM at 7.30 am, I was shocked to see about a hundred people already in line. I was expecting the rush to begin from Thursday as people would come in to withdraw their salaries,” said Saumitra Deb, a resident of Jadavpur, who finally got into the ATM at 10 am.
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Deb was one of the lucky ones. Across the city, many complained of having queued up for over four hours, with banks running out of cash before their turns came. Pritha Dalal, a primary school teacher, said, “I had no option but to go the bank as I had no cash on the last day of the month. I wanted to take out enough to meet expenses for at least half the month,” she said.
According to the Reserve Bank of India’s order, a person can withdraw Rs 24,000 against a withdrawal slip or cheque subject per week, including ATM and bank withdrawals. However, the money crunch has forced banks to cap the withdrawal limit as per their fund availability to cater to maximum customers. “Despite the stipulated withdrawal limit laid by RBI, banks’ branches are putting their own limitation on withdrawal of money depending on their cash availability. The situation will not improve unless cash is supplied adequately,” said Bank Employees’ Federation India General Secretary Pradip Biswas. This cap on the weekly withdrawal limit and inadequate supply of liquid currency has led to a major crisis in Kolkata, which, unlike other metropolitan cities, still largely relies on cash transactions.
“Since banks are rationing withdrawal of money, you have to put a break on your expenses and spend according to the amount withdrawn,” said Alok Sarkar, a central government employee, waiting outside a UBI branch on Strand Road.
Meanwhile, RBI officials said that though the currency supply situation was improving, the supply of Rs 500 denomination notes was poor, which was problematic. “The supply of cash is improving, but there is a massive gap between demand and supply. People prefer the Rs 500 and Rs 100 denomination notes because the Rs 2000 note is hard to use,” said an official.