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A day after the Prime Minister’s stunning announcement of demonetisation of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 currency notes, chaos reigned at medicine shops, hospitals and fuel stations across West Bengal where the particular notes were refused by the authorities despite instructions to the contrary. Soon after Modi’s surprise announcement, people started queuing up at fuel stations and before Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) for Rs 100 notes.
Despite clear instructions that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes would be accepted at hospitals, fuel stations and railway ticket bookings counters for the time being, refusals were reported at many places leading to confusion, anxiety and panic among people. A regional spokesperson for Indian Oil Corporation said owing to reports of complaints from consumers, the authorities once again issued instructions to accept the Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes till midnight of November 11.
In the rural areas, it was reported that people exchanged the said notes with a cut of 20 per cent. “We have heard and read about the ban and the ways to get them replaced, but as long as my notes are not getting exchanged, I am not relieved,” was the common refrain among households across the state.
Patients and their relatives, some of whom had come from neighbouring Bangladesh for chemotherapy and other treatments at a private cancer hospital in New Town area near the metropolis, were at their wit’s end after the authorities allegedly refused to accept currency notes above the denomination of Rs 100. Passengers were harassed at railway stations as some booking clerks refused to accept Rs 1,000 or Rs 500 denomination notes although the Prime Minister had in his announcement exempted hospitals, chemist shops and railway bookings from the guidelines for sometime.
Such currency notes would be accepted for railway ticket booking for 72 hours starting from 8 PM last night, the PM in his address had said. Fair price medicine shops at a referral government hospital here also reportedly refused to accept high denomination currency notes from patients and made some exceptions only in case of urgent need. While some fuel stations sold fuel to buyers for round figures of Rs 500 or its multiples, many others refused to accept the high denomination notes.