Within hours of banks opening in Jharkhand on November 10, the first day of operation after the PM’s demonetisation announcement, top officials in the state administration had a major crisis at hand. They were certain that cash in at least a few nationalised banks would run out before sundown. The RBI assured more cash, but with a catch: it would reach Jharkhand only on November 13 by train. With the prospect of managing anxious crowds for two days in between, bankers and state officials closed ranks to airlift currency to keep the cash flow going.
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Two choppers were pressed into service to airlift currency from Patna RBI and rush it to centres like Jamshedpur and Bokaro for re-distribution in banks across the state.
When contacted, RBI’s nodal officer for Jharkhand for the purpose, Amit Sinha, said: “It was a crucial requirement and we, including all the stakeholders, joined hands to deal with the situation as best as possible. We are working on all fronts simultaneously.”
Sinha added that the initiative was necessary because “it was crucial to give people confidence in the system”.
Additional Chief Secretary (Finance), Amit Khare, said that use of choppers for transportation of cash was not conventional. “We needed permission from the RBI to carry cash using choppers. The Government of India’s nodal officer for Jharkhand was contacted. They were quick to respond and give permission,” he said.
The next question was how to get choppers. Sources said the matter was taken to the Chief Minister’s Office and that he readily agreed to allow the state administration’s chopper, which is used by him, to be used for the purpose. Another was arranged with the help of Jharkhand Police.
Around 2.30 pm Saturday, the two choppers left for Patna and reached 4.30 pm. It took two hours for the cash to be transported from the RBI currency chest to the airport. By 8 pm, the two choppers returned to Ranchi.
With around six cash boxes weighing 125 kg accommodated in each of the two choppers, Rs 100 crore was loaded and brought to Ranchi, sources said.
“The amount was not big. But for Jharkhand, this was just enough to get things going,” said Khare.
On the night of November 10 and 11, bank officials worked till 3 am to re-distribute the cash that was to be taken next morning to Jamshedpur and Bokaro using choppers. One chopper was later sent to Deoghar in Santhal Pargana area Sunday and will be sent to other remote places as and when required.
With additional cash arriving by train Sunday, the state may not need to bring in more cash from Patna as of now. But sorties may continue to keep the banks functioning in remote areas, officials said.