FOR the second consecutive day today, the nightmare continued for Puneites as they dealt with crowded banks and spent hours trying to get Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes exchanged. Across Pune city, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Khadki and Dehu Road areas, several people had to return empty-handed after they failed to get cash out of non-functional ATMs. Many banks — nationalised, private and cooperative — saw a heavy rush of customers at various branches. Even as several banks went about the job at their own pace — opening at their scheduled time — harried residents were seen arguing with the bank staff.
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While the ATMs opened today after being shut for three days, angry Puneites said many of them were not functional and they were finding it difficult to manage without hard cash.
Some bank managers claimed that currency could not be loaded into ATM machines.
“There was a problem in loading Rs 100 notes as the machines were synced to accept mainly Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes,” said a branch manager with a private bank. According to bank staff, the ATMs should start functioning from Saturday.
At BT Kawade Road — which has branches of ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Andhra Bank, Axis Bank, Union Bank and Bank of Maharashtra — people had started gathering outside the bank early in the morning, with some people reaching as early as 7.30 am, even though most banks opened around 9 am.
Within a few hours, almost a 100 people could be seen outside each bank, waiting in serpentine queues. As most ATMs remained non-functional, the queues at the banks showed no signs of thinning. Pramod Thakur (33), who was standing outside the Union Bank on BT Kawade Road, said, “I reached at 10.30 am and there were already around 100 people ahead of me, standing in the queue. By 11.30 am, even though an hour had passed, hardly six people were able to get their work done. I will wait for another hour and if the line continues to move at such a slow speed, I will probably come back later.”
Outside Bank of Maharashtra, Anuj Nikam (24), a resident of Palm Groves Society, said he had taken half a day off from his office so that he could exchange at least Rs 2,000. “I have been standing here for close to two hours and it looks like it will take another hour for me to reach the counter. But I have no choice as I need money right now. I had gone to the ATM but it wasn’t working,” he said.
Barkha Advani, a resident of Wanowrie, checked a number of ATM booths at Wanowrie, NIBM ROAD, Salisbury Park and Swargate areas on Friday morning, but couldn’t withdraw any money. “All of them were shut, despite the announcement that they would be open today. One ATM was open but it was so crowded that I gave up,” she said.
ATMs in central parts of the city such as Kasba Peth, Sadashiv Peth, Narayan Peth, Somwar Peth, Mangalwar Peth and Shaniwar Peth were shut. When residents asked bank staff when the ATMs would start working, the latter admitted that they had no idea.
In Kothrud, Satara Road and Sinhagad Road areas, people were seen returning empty-handed and animatedly discussing when cash would be available at the ATMs. One of them was Akash, who said, “Since 7.30 am, I have made several trips to at least five ATM booths located in different areas, but found that they are not working. Security guards at the booths said… paisa nahi baba (there is no money),” he said.
However, Shridhar Chalkha, a resident of Sambhajinagar, had a note of optimism. “The bank managers I spoke to told me that citizens were panicking unnecessarily… things will settle down by next week,” said Chalkha.