New Delhi: With the Rs 100 currency note performing a Houdini act, rumour, panic, and unexplained fear hit the city on Thursday leading to a maddening rush at branches of banks and post office counters across Delhi as banks reopened after a day-long closure following the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.
Amidst the hullabaloo, the worst-hit were the senior citizens and women, who were found waiting patiently in queues outside banks. The long serpentine queues that spilled over the main roads of the city caused severe traffic jams, leading to chaos on prominent arteries of the city. The chaos began early as hundreds of citizens had started queueing up outside banks and post offices from as early as 7 am, to be among the earliest ones to have their old currency notes exchanged.
The trouble was compounded as the new Rs 2,000 notes were dispensed in greater numbers when compared to the humble Rs 100 notes, which made it difficult for the service class and small vendors to buy items of daily need. That coloured the mood of the people who have supported Prime Minister Narendra Modi's war against black money but wished it didn't come with the attendant troubles of having little ready cash in hand to make essential purchases.
“I have only one Rs 1,000 and two Rs 500 notes in my pocket, but I couldn’t buy any vegetables or groceries. I had to borrow Rs 5 to get photocopies of my identity-proofs so that I could exchange my currency today. It has been so difficult as no one was ready to accept these notes and refund the amount,” said Rajkumar Singh, a security guard, who was waiting in a queue for his turn to come.
Also, the Reserve Bank of India, public and private-sector bank branches, and post offices witnessed a huge rush all through Thursday. At many bank branches, cash ran out within the first three hours causing chaos.
And at every location visited by the Firstpost team, immense frustration was palpable among the public.
“Modiji’s step to curb black money is appreciated, but what have I to do with it? I don’t have any black money. I have been standing in this queue for the last three hours to exchange the Rs 2,000 I have with me. No one in the market is ready to refund even Rs 50. If I don’t get new currency notes today, I won’t be able to buy my groceries. Rs 100 notes have vanished entirely. The government should have thought about the aam aadmi while making this announcement,” said Shailender Kumar, who was in a queue at the Delhi GPO (Gol Dak Khana).
A large number of people complained that waiting for hours didn’t result in much as they received Rs 2,000 currency notes — which would be difficult for them to use while making payments.
“Due to the shortage of Rs 100 notes, no one is giving change. If you go to petrol pump, you have to buy petrol worth Rs 500 or Rs 1,000. Even at Metro stations, commuters are compelled to get a recharge of Rs 500,” complained Sarita Ahuja, a homemaker.
According to a few traders, rumour and panic have led to a situation where hoarding of Rs 100 currency notes has begun.
However, the RBI and other bank officials clarified that people need not panic as sufficient Rs 100 currency notes are available.
BS Shekhawat, general manager (Delhi zone), Central Bank of India told Firstpost, “Banks are not holding back any currency notes. In exchange for banned currency notes, we are disbursing a mix of Rs 2,000 and Rs 100 notes. We’ve received Rs 100 notes from the RBI in large number for public distribution. Since, today is the first day, there’s a panic amongst public, but it’ll be normal by the weekend. We’ve opened extra counters and diverted extra staff members from administrative offices to deal with the situation on war-footing, so that customers don’t have any problem. From Friday, ATMs will be operational as well.”