Pay Day Cash Rush: No Mayday but banks brace for Saturday crowd

Day 1 rush wasn’t as expected but long queues outside ATMs after work

Written by Manas Mitul , Mythreyee Ramesh , Benita Chacko | Mumbai | Published:December 2, 2016 3:49 am
demonetisation, cashless economy, cashless, cash crunch, salary day, student difficulty, tiffins, food, dabbawalas, india news, indian express news Some people also complained about the lack of availability of new notes at ATMs, forcing them to withdraw the permissible limit only in notes of 100. (AP Photo)

The surge of customers at banks on the first day of salary disbursement wasn’t as expected by bankers but by evening, long queues were seen outside ATMs as office-goers scrambled to withdraw money after work. Bank officials said they expect larger crowds on December 3 for deposit and withdrawal, the day being the first day of the weekend after salary day.

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“We have not experienced much difference today and the bank has been functioning as usual. As salary day has fallen on a weekday, most people would be at work. But Saturday might see a surge in employees going to banks for either depositing their salaries paid in cheques or for withdrawal,” said an official of HDFC bank in Kandivli East in suburban Mumbai earlier in the day. “We have already reduced crowds and lines since we implemented the token system a few days after the demonetisation announcement. We hand out tokens to customers indicating their turn for their convenience, so that they don’t have to stand in line for long,” he said.

Other banks too reported business as usual. “There is no discernible difference today. People are coming in mostly for withdrawals. Some have come and deposited as well, but it is the way it has been for the past 10-15 days,” said Renuka Gowda, branch manager at ICICI Bank in suburban Mumbai.

What may have helped is the fact that a large number of companies in the financial capital also tied up with private banks and installed micro ATMs at their offices to assist their employees in cash withdrawals after salary payout. On Thursday, the State Bank of India, the country’s largest public sector bank, recorded 50 lakh withdrawal transactions till 1 pm in the afternoon from its branches and ATMs across the country. On November 30, SBI had recorded 95 lakh withdrawal transactions.

Several banks, however, continued to face cash crunch at their branches. Rafiq Akhtar, a 70-year-old pensioner, was allowed to withdraw only Rs 8,000 from his account at a public sector bank at Mahim, as the bank did not have enough cash to pay him. “Even though there is a limit of Rs 24,000 that we can withdraw for a week, banks do not have the cash to give us our own money,” said Akhtar.

Apart from this, city ATMs still saw long queues, even though lines have become visibly shorter in the past week.

According to bank officials, a few people did turn up to deposit salary cheques at banks, taking time off work. But, most people lined up at banks and ATMs in the daytime for withdrawing notes of 100 or the new bills of 500 and 2,000 denominations.

Interestingly, the banks also saw a surge in customers from the unorganised sector who typically receive salaries in cash and are unfamiliar with the banking procedures. Sumita Prasad, who works as a domestic help, visited the bank for the first time to deposit her salary cheque. Standing in queue outside a bank in Mahim, she said, “I have always been paid through cash. My employers did not want to spend the cash they had, and wrote me a cheque. I am learning how these things work only now.”

“The imposed limit of Rs 2,000 is inconvenient. It means we have to stand in line and withdraw again after a few days,” said a person standing in queue at a Union Bank ATM. He did not wish to be named.

Some people also complained about the lack of availability of new notes at ATMs, forcing them to withdraw the permissible limit only in notes of 100.

Many banks across the city ran out of cash as they opened to crowds on salary day. Scarcity of the new Rs 500 and notes of Rs 100 denomination added to the woes of the public as they stood in line to deposit pay cheques or withdraw money. Most ATMs near Nariman Point in South Mumbai were shut by mid-afternoon as cash had dried up due to withdrawals in the morning.

“We are seeing transaction rates dip to 45 per cent from what it was before demonetisation. However, while the long queues remain, fewer ATMs are functioning. The situation is definitely not going to improve over the weekend, as it is the first weekend after the payday,” said Patanjali Somayaji, co-founder and COO of Walnut, an app that helps you find working ATMs nearby.