Apart from the winter chill, the people in and around Sankhda village in Gir Somnath district of Gujarat who camp outside the local branch of SBI every night have to fight the fear of lions and leopards. The people from nearby villages are spending the nights outside the SBI branch in Sankhda — the lone bank branch in the area — so that they get the cash before it runs out when the bank opens in the morning.
However, sometimes there are other nocturnal visitors. “A leopard strayed into the village about one week ago. The people who had lined up outside the bank and villagers managed to run it off into forest, but before that it killed a calf,” said the village sarpanch Santubhai Gohil.
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The area is close to the Gir Lions Sanctuary. The SBI branch at Sankhda caters to about 20 villages. The sarpanch claimed that though the RBI has allowed withdrawal of Rs 24,000 a week, only Rs 2,000 were being disbursed by the bank as supply of currency was not adequate.
“Shops are no longer willing to sell milk and groceries on credit,” Gohil said. People, desperate to withdraw cash, camped outside the bank armed with blankets and woollens, he said. “I have made arrangement to provide the people who camp outside the bank with biscuits and water,” he said.
Farukh Raja, a resident of nearby Una town, said another problem was the banks were dispensing Rs 2,000 notes, which shopkeepers do not accept easily. Some people were charging a premium Rs 200 to accept the Rs 2,000 note, he claimed.