Demonetisation: As ATMs and banks run dry before payday, grumblings grow louder in the capital

The Indian Express visited prominent markets to take stock of the situation.

Written by Sarah Hafeez | Alka Pande & Ravish Tiwarilucknow/new Delhi, New Delhi | Published: December 1, 2016 1:53:20 am
People gather to withdraw money near Nangloi Chowk on Wednesday. (Express Photo: Tashi Tobgyal) People gather to withdraw money near Nangloi Chowk on Wednesday. (Express Photo: Tashi Tobgyal)

In what is likely to make paying salaries much harder, several ATMs and banks across the capital have been shut or are lying defunct because of cash shortage and technical issues for the last few days. The Indian Express visited prominent markets to take stock of the situation:

North: No cash for rent

In Mukherjee Nagar, the two-kilometre stretch from GTB Nagar Metro station to the end of the market saw 15 banks and ATMs shut on Wednesday.

Outside an empty Axis Bank ATM, a band prepared for a wedding. Pradeep Bhatiya, president of the Kamla Market welfare association who also owns shops there, got ready to drive down to his son’s wedding.

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“I had to cut down on the mocktail and the mehendi. We are straight away going for the vidai. I sent my sons and nephew to queue up outside ATMs, but they could not get any cash,” Bhatia said.

Locals said many of the 15-odd ATMs had been shut since November 8, when demonetisation was announced. The few that were open ran out of cash a few days ago, when people started withdrawing more money ahead of payday.

Outside one ATM, a queue of 50 people, mostly students preparing for competitive exams, gathered around 6 pm in anticipation of cash. Many said they needed money to pay rent.

Parveen Kataria, a student, said, “I have my State Service Commission exam on December 2 and I have been standing here for four hours. I have to pay rent and for the tiffin service. I have been forgoing fruits and milk because of the cash crunch.”

East: Anger spills over

In Kondli, five major bank branches and ATMs were shut on Wednesday afternoon. Locals said this has been the case for the last few days.

Only a Canara bank ATM has been dispensing cash for a few hours every day, locals said.

Nem Singh, 44, a tailor at an export factory in Kondli, said, “I was paid my salary of Rs 13,000 in cheque this time. I had to let go of a day’s salary because I was at the bank depositing the cheque… Today, I am trying to withdraw the deposited money.

Abha Sharma, manager at the Canara Bank Kondli branch, said, “We are the only ATM that has been dispensing cash every day. But the RBI cash van did not come last night.”

“It is payday and we have increased our service counters from three to four,” she said.

Keshoram, the guard at the empty Axis Bank ATM, alleged he was attacked on Tuesday night by irate locals. Sharma said the bank has had to call police on several occasions to control the crowd. “We estimate it will take more than 100 days for normal cash flow to return,” Sharma said.

West: Long queues

In west and northwest Delhi, banks and ATMs have been running out of cash faster than usual because of payday. At Burari market, of the 15 ATMs, only two were dispensing cash on Wednesday evening.

Outside the Andhra Bank ATM at Shalimar Bagh, a queue of 100-odd people waited for three hours for cash to arrive.

Akhilesh Tanwar, a field officer for a pharmaceutical company, said, “My shift timings do not allow me to queue up for so long outside banks and ATMs. In Burari, where I live, the ATMs don’t work. I came to try my luck here because a friend told me to, but it’s 7 pm and I’m still waiting. I have to pay my domestic help Rs 300 so she can pay her children’s school fees.”

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