Demonetisation: How cash-strapped people are struggling to get a hold of their money

Nov, 14 2016 IST

  • 19:02 (IST)

    People are going out of their way to support their families


    My friend Reagan George had withdrawn Rs 10,000 from the bank following PM Modi's announcement on withdrawing the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. He gave half of that money to his wife's ailing father (to buy medicines) and also installed a Paytm account in his name.


    Reagan lent Rs 2,000 to his brother whose son had a birthday and had called all his classmates. The couple is now left with Rs 3,000. The wife Yashmi Prasad said, "We cannot stand in the queue for money in the bank again. We are using our money frugally and choose to buy veggies from online stores and use our debit cards."

  • 18:57 (IST)

    People forced to skip work


    My friend Shailza Rai, a research consultant, lives alone in Mumbai. She feels that PM Modi's announcement has led to panic and that people have gone `rabid'.


    She shared her experience, "I stood in a queue for over three hours at an ATM and when it was almost my turn at the machine, the link stopped working. This is leading to terrible frustrations. Some people were chanting anti-government slogans. I have just Rs 300 on me. Soon, I will have to join that long line at the ATM to withdraw money. Since, I don't think my money will last till the weekend, I may have to take a day's leave from work, stand in the queue and hopefully get Rs 2,500 now against the earlier limit of Rs 2,000 from a calibrated ATM. Other ATMs will still give only Rs 2,000, I am told. I won't be able to pay the sabziwallah and for the auto rides for many more days."

  • 18:54 (IST)

    People are budget-conscious following Modi's demonetisation operation 


    My friend Aparna Khemani works as Director, Operations at a museum consultancy firm. PM Modi's announcement has forced her to scrimp. 

    "I was fortunate that I withdrew Rs 1,000 in Rs 100 denominations on 5 November. The announcement did not jolt me as I had money on hand. However, I learnt to be cautious of the notes in my possession. I have curbed thoughtless spending. So, for instance, I don't hop into a cab at the slightest pretext. Ordering an Uber is out as that would mean Rs 100 is wiped off my meager savings on hand. I take the train more for travel. I don't have a Paytm account. I have learnt to work on a small budget. I am walking a lot more. So the announcement has been good for me health-wise," says Khemani

  • 18:00 (IST)

    How demonetisation affects the veterans

    It is funny how one has to go on two consecutive days to get Rs 10,000 from one's own account when Rs 20,000 is the permitted limit for the  week. This means more time spent in queues and double work for bank employees who are overworked and are doing a remarkable job.


    Mercifully, this limit has been raised to Rs 24,000 per week single withdrawal. Different banks have different system for queues. Some branches have two lines – one for money exchange and other for deposit and withdrawals. Other banks have just one queue. Most ATM’s are not functional.


    Surprisingly there are no affluent people in the queues. Longest queues are for currency exchange where the periodicity of exchange permitted (now Rs 4,500 in lieu of earlier orders of Rs 4,000) was unclear to public. Announcements were made that anyone who had exchanged currency the previous day cannot do so again till the next week.


    Poverty in heart of the Capital can be gauged from the fact that some poor were depositing old currency in their accounts ranging from Rs 600 to Rs 1,500 or Rs 2,000. Full marks to demonetisation and the necessary surprise, but execution could have been better. There is a need to flood banks with new Rs 500 notes and permit single withdrawal next month to Rs 50,000. Military veterans were to be given enhanced pension under 7th CPC vide GoI circular issued in end of October. This, along with arrears, was expected to be credited in pension accounts by first week of November. But with banks neck deep in demonetization, hopefully veterans will get the enhanced pension early next year.    

  • 17:20 (IST)

    Demonetisation reveals true heroes


    My maid Sangeeta and her husband, who works as a helper at a mall, make a combined income of Rs 15,000 per month. They have two children — a college-going daughter and a son in the 10th grade. 


    When PM Narendra Modi announced the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes, Sangeeta was worried. She had saved Rs 2,000 from her earnings to send to her ailing father in her village. "I hope my father will be able to find the change and use the money," she told me.


    In one of the houses that Sangeeta works, the 'sethji's' wife asked her if she would deposit Rs 2 lakh in her account. In exchange she offered Sangeeta a percentage of the interest. Sangeeta declined. When I asked her why she did so, she said,"This is how one develop's bad habits. I don't want to get used to any kind of living which is not from my earnings. I don't want my children to learn bad habits. The sethani was a bit upset with me. But that's alright. If she does not want me to work for her, I will find some other house to work. I am not doing anything that will make me uneasy and teach my children wrong things.

  • 17:12 (IST)

    Bengaluru will bear the torch of India's digital revolution


    What amazes me is the resilience of men and women on the streets of India. While the middle class has it’s plastic money and can transfer funds from one account to another, to pay their bills, the multitudes of Indians who deal with cash are quickly adjusting to the changes. 


    This last week I also found out that many of these people do have bank accounts. Only they either do not know how to use them effectively or are afraid to make a mistake and lose all their money. But, living in the tech savvy Bengaluru, it’s not long before they will master technology and go digital.


    Take for instance, the Uber or Ola drivers in Bengaluru. Many of them have taken to mobile technology, like fish to water. They have already mastered Google Maps and use it to arrive at your home, without calling you several times to ask for directions and also take you to your destination without any trouble. They’ve also mastered the complicated technology of billing patterns, bonuses and reviews very quickly. 


    Recently on an Uber ride, I overheard one driver talking to another. He said, "I checked my bank account through the app. They haven’t paid me bonuses for last week, did you get yours?"

    This past week, Ola and Uber drivers in Bengaluru are asking customers, who are used to paying in cash, to deposit the money in their bank account, if they don’t have cash.


    Perhaps, Bengaluru will be the first city in India to turn its workers from the un-organised sector towards digital banking. 


    And, when we do that, I can tell my daughter in San Francisco, that yes, we too use plastic money for all our daily living needs.

  • 17:02 (IST)

    Comic Con gets creative 


    At the ComicCon on Sunday every stall had hoarding which said saying they accepted Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes. One vendor, wearing a T-shirt with multi-hued comic heroes emblazoned on it, had a hoarding that said that ‘All Gandhis accepted here'.

    At one stall where I presented my new Rs 2,000 note for some totes I bought, the stall owner, gave it back saying, "Ma'am why do you want to spend it? Keep it, relish it for a while, you’ll have to stand in queue to get another one. For now use your plastic card." 


    Most of the vendors were willingly swiping debit and credit cards for even small amounts like Rs 150 and Rs 250. As everyone knows, most stores refuse to swipe your plastic card, if its below Rs 1,000, so it was a pleasant surprise to pay even small bills through plastic money. 

  • 16:57 (IST)

    Vasantha, my proud vegetable-seller, is a suffering due to the lack of a bank account


    My vegetable vendor Vasantha comes to my neighbourhood every morning rolling in her cart. She is a good business sense and doesn't let stingy housewives drive down her prices. Often she doesn't sell vegetables to those who refuse to meet her prices. 


    Today she told me that her business was suffering. Minutes within the announcement of demonetisation, she found out about it. 


    She said,"I used to buy Rs 5,000 worth of vegetables from the wholesalers. But now I buy only Rs 3,000 worth because people don't have change and want to pay me in Rs 500 notes. Where do I get them change from? The wholesalers are ready to accept the Rs 500 notes, but insist we buy for the entire amount."


    ​Vasantha doesn't have a bank account and says she's thinking of opening one now.

  • 16:43 (IST)

    My maid is learning how to use her bank account


    ​Lakshmi, is my maid and besides my home, she works in some five houses and earns some Rs 13,000 a month. I pay her salary in cash and so do the others. When I asked her whether she had any problems last week, she said, she was among the lucky ones, as she had changed all her Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes, long before the announcement.


    "I will bring my passbook and my account number, so that you can deposit the money from next month into my account," she told me.  Lakshmi doesn’t know where her bank is, "I know it’s not at the one down the road, but the one at the Nanjappa road traffic circle," she said.

  • 16:39 (IST)

    Mother opens daughter's piggy-bank to access small notes

    My friend Sabrina Mascarenhas, an artist, just realised how wise it was to put money into her three and half year old daughter Mila's piggy bank. "When PM Modi announced the demonetisation, I did not see it. The next day morning I read about in the newspapers. My husband, Rigzin Kalon and I were pretty calm about it as we had money and did not have to go to the bank to exchange money desperately."


    She added, "Rigzin had Rs 700 in Rs 100 notes and a couple of Rs 500 notes. I had one Rs 500 note. I realised that Mila's little piggy bank was full of generous gifts from her grandmother which were in currency notes. Rigzin and I would occasionally put coins in her piggy bank and sometimes let Mila do it herself. It is a playful activity for her. The piggy bank was a gift that Mila received on her birthday. I decided to dip into it and when we opened it we were elated to see Rs 200 in Rs 100 notes and coins of Rs 10 and Rs 5."

    She said, "I had paid my maid and other utility bills and there was no urgency to go to the bank. We also had our debit and credit cards. Mila's piggy bank helped us travel in a rickshaw without having to spend the money we had."

    My friend's husband resembles a foreigner. Considering the actions taken by public to ensure the convenience of foreigners, her husband was able to get change for a Rs 500 note. Sabrina recalls, "Rigzin, who is a film maker from Leh-Ladakh looks like a foreigner and was able to get change from the super market. I think that is because of his appearance. We are happy with the PM's announcement. We wish public transport allowed the use of mobile wallets and we could pay sundry services like carpenters and electricians digitally. The bright side for us is that none of us fell ill because that would have meant to spend the currency in our possession. We even went out to eat out and though we paid by card we happily were able to give a tip, too. All thanks to Mila's piggy bank!"

  • 16:38 (IST)

    They work without wages in Kerala

    From the day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered the demonetisation shocker, many daily-wage earners in Kerala have been in a self-imposed work-without-pay mode. They have been refusing to take their wages.
     

    That's because the employer invariably hands out a Rs 500 note to each labourer as the day’s wage and, if he accepts it, he must spend a good part of the next day in a bank to exchange it for legal tender. This would obviously deprive him of the next day’s wage.

    So, the labourers are working but telling the employers to pay them only when they have legal notes ready. But they survive because shops in their neighbourhood are willing to give them provisions on credit. The shops are doing that in their own interests. Otherwise, they will be left with few customers.

  • 15:51 (IST)

    Credit, Debit cards make my life easier, but what about those without these means?

    I can demonetise almost everything in my life due to technology. So instead of buying vegetables from my sabziwallah I’m ordering my vegetables from Grofers. Instead of taking a kaali-peeli or rickshaw, I’m taking an Uber everywhere. I’ve postponed the hire of my new cook in lieu of ordering my meals from Scootsy. The switch to a life without cash has slightly inconvenient but quite functional. Because I have a smartphone, apps and credit cards, I have enough options. I am acutely aware of this, as I’ve never been before.



    I also know that I’m in a minority. Because many people in India are paying a (hopefully short-term) price for demonetisation. This is evident in the number of suicides and deaths taking place around the nation. In my own home, my cleaner tells me she can’t eat vada pav because the vendor will not break a Rs 2000 note. I feed her but how will her family and she manage all their meals henceforth? I have to tell my newspaperwallah to wait for another few days before I can pay him his dues. I feel ashamed at denying him this paltry amount. How do I explain to him that I’ve failed three attempts in serpentine ATM lines?



    Thanks to digital currency I have food on my table and clothes on my back. But how are people without this surviving? As I debate on whether to give my last Rs 100 note to an old beggar, I realise that this is the most acutely aware and ashamed I’ve been of what it means to have even a little in today’s India. Yes, I stand by Modi’s decision, but I wish its execution had been equally resolute.

  • 15:42 (IST)

    After three days of long wait and desperate visits to innumerable ATMs, I finally got my cash in Kochi in Kerala on Sunday. I was pleased as if I struck paydirt. I was more exhilarated than when I had got my first salary working for a newspaper in December 1981.
     

    But it was not without a nasty experience just before that.
     

    Before getting lucky, I had joined a queue outside a Federal Bank ATM in Kochi as the 12th person, and my status proved to be similar to the 12th team member in cricket. The 11th was a girl. When she went in, I stood behind the closed glass door, with my heart in one hand and the card in the other.
     

    She didn’t come out for several minutes. When she finally did she was almost in tears. She said she had a "problem" with the machine. I gallantly went in to investigate. The machine had run out of cash. The queue melted away.
     

    Then I walked up to the SBT ATM nearby, close to the Deshabhimani Junction, and planted myself in a queue of about 20 people, hoping the money in the machine would last till my turn. It did, and I got my money. Everyone was allowed to use only one card to draw money. I got lucky with the second one immediately afterwards at another ATM, also of the SBT, not far away from the first machine.
     

  • 15:30 (IST)

    Aadhar Card is a must for all


    Abdul is the watchman in my building and he is from Odisha. Many others like him have migrated from Odisha to Benguluru in search of jobs and taken up positions as watchmen. 


    Most of these Oriya men live far from their families and settle in dormitories, provided by security agencies.


    These watchmen fend for themselves and spend on their daily meals and tea.   


    When I asked Abdul how he managed this last week, Abdul said he heard the news about de-monetisation the evening it was announced from his friends. 


    "I don’t have a bank account, but my cousin Nobir has an account in State Bank of India. So, as soon as the banks opened, I deposited my entire salary in his bank account, keeping only Rs 2000 for food, etc. So, I am fine, madam," he said.   


    "Don’t you think you should have your own account?" I asked.


    "I have a PAN number but no Aadhar card. Once I have it, I will open a bank account," he said. 


    As part of our community initiative, the neighbourhood Residents’ Welfare Association in Richmond and Langford Town is organising an Aadhar camp with the local corporator’s help, to start the process of ensuring Aadhar cards to all those from the unorganised sector working in these areas. 

  • 14:58 (IST)

    Muthu is my newspaperwala. Every month, he presents a bill for the newspapers I buy and I pay him in cash. This is a small bill of some Rs 450 or so, depending on whether there were 30 or 31 days in the month. This month, when he presented his bill, seeing my embarrassed face, Muthu quickly wrote down his account number on the back of the bill and asked me to transfer his payment to his account.

    ‘Madam, I know you don’t have cash, every house I go to, it’s the same story. I have an account in State Bank of Mysore, down the road. I guess you too have an account there. So just transfer it from your account.’
     
    I was glad he had offered me a way out and not feel embarrassed that I didn’t have Rs 450 with me.

  • 14:45 (IST)

  • 14:41 (IST)

    Is media exaggerating?

    My daughter has just drawn Rs 2000 from an SBM ATM on Mahatma Gandhi Road in Bengaluru with no difficulty. She was 10th in a queue of 20 people.

    Supreeth Mohan of Bengaluru says ATMs have no long queues in the south of the city especially and that the media is exaggerating.

  • 14:29 (IST)

    "Thank you IDBI Bank. The service it showed its regular customers was better than those meted out by high profile private banks," says a fellow citizen.

  • 14:03 (IST)

    Not everyone has access to plastic money

    When the demonetisation news came, my daughter, who lives in San Francisco, could not understand why there were long queues at the banks.

    ‘Why can’t everyone use their plastic money to shop?’ she asked, unable to understand that most of us in India use cash for our daily living needs.

    Take for instance, some of these live stories from Bengaluru:

    Lingaraju, is our building mali (gardener). This morning, when he came for his salary of Rs 3000, we offered him Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes. But, rubbing his scant hair, Lingaraju demurred and said he couldn’t imagine standing in a long queue to change the notes.

    ‘My wife has been hoarding all the new ₹1000 notes. Whoever thought, this would happen. Now we are sitting with on all these notes and do I stand in queue to change these notes or come to work?’

    Lingaraju has a bank account in Canara Bank, yet, he refused to take a cheque, saying he needed cash. ‘You can deposit the money from next month in  my account,’ he said.

    After nearly a half hour of wrangling with him, he reluctantly agreed to take Rs 500 notes as the building fund had no other cash and nobody was free to go to the bank and stand in queue and exchange these notes.

  • 13:56 (IST)

    People react on Twitter

  • 13:39 (IST)

    Situation not that bad everywhere

    In contrast to what I saw on TV, my experience hasn’t been bad in Chennai - particularly when expectations were really low. I waited for a couple of days since the late night announcement of demonetisation so that I wouldn’t block those who are in absolute need while going ahead with routine daily life including attending classical music concerts at a “sabha” at a few kilometres away because I had a credit card to pay for essentials and Uber and PayTM for travel.

    I ventured out looking for exchanging cash and ATM on the third day: went to two banks in T-Nagar, ICICI and SBI. ICICI had a queue, not a very long one; but the bank was entertaining only its account holders. I hopped across to the SBI branch nearby and stood in the queue with the exchange form and ID copy duly verified by a bank employee sitting at the front. In about half an hour, I got Rs 4000 exchanged (both in Rs 2000 notes) and then in another half an hour, after standing in another queue, I could also withdraw Rs 10,000 because I had an account in another SBI branch. This time, I got four Rs 2000 notes and the rest in 50s.
     
    Although I thought I was loaded enough, the shortage of 100s still troubled me a bit. On Sunday, I went to Bank of India in my locality where I don’t have an account. The ATM was free and I could take Rs 2000 (all in Rs 100 notes) without any hassle. I also could deposit the extra 500s I had at home with absolutely no hassles. The bank had deployed employees to distribute forms, explain the steps and even guide them to appropriate counters and tellers.
     
    Reading the horror stories, I guess the disparity is probably because of three  reasons - one, the typical Indian mentality of hoarding and two, coverage by bank branches and three, the efficiency of the bank staff.

  • 13:31 (IST)

    Gurugram: People queue up outside a bank to exchange their old Rs 500 and 1000 notes in Gurugram on Sunday. (Image courtesy: PTI)

  • 13:12 (IST)

    Cab drivers facing difficulty

    My personal experience with shopping over the weekend was not great, even with a credit card in hand, as most POS machines were clogged with transactions. Forget lines outside ATMs and Banks, shoppers were lining up in stores at the billing counters thanks to the slow and stressed POS machines.

    But there is another side to this demonetisation mess as well. My wife told me a short story about how the people we would least expect to complain in such situations were forced to speak up. 

    Last Friday, she took a cab back home from work, and the Ola cab driver as usual began chatting up, but he did have an issue.

    “Madam will you be paying in cash or Ola Money?” Like any other citizen of our country who is short on cash, she replied, “Ola Money”.

    So he went on explaining to her his plight with demonetisation. With all the talk about online payments for ride-sharing services, the driver did have a problem. He had just Rs 20 in cash at the end of the day (not enough to have a decent meal), because almost every one of his customers had been paying him through Ola Money (online payments).

    At the end of the trip, my wife paid him through Ola Money but asked him to accept the same amount in cash as well as a token of gratitude. He promptly rejected, but eventually accepted the amount upon some coaxing. 

    She had a peaceful night’s sleep knowing that she had to opportunity to help someone who many would least be bothered to worry about, in such times. It’s wise to remember that everyone out there runs short on hard cash in such tough times.

  • 13:02 (IST)

    Demonetisation forced 60-year-old man to break 24-year-old coin collection

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes forced a 60-year-old man from Thrissur in Kerala to break a coin collection he launched 24 years ago to observe his brother’s 25th death anniversary.

    Arackal Jose, a head load worker, started collecting the coins after he could not observe the first death anniversary of his brother Francis Pranchi on 17 November, 1992 because of lack of money.

    Jose, who felt guilty, took a vow to observe the 25th anniversary in a big way by inviting all people in the area and started depositing a part of the wage he earned in the coin box for the purpose. But he was forced to open it on Sunday as he could not mobilise enough fund for the treatment of his ailing mother. According to a report in a Malayalam daily, the box contained coins worth Rs 70,000.

  • 12:57 (IST)

    Church in Kerala helps people

    A Catholic church at Kochi in Kerala came to the aide of common people hit hard by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation drive.

    St Martin De Porres Church at Kakkanad has kept its two offering boxes open since Sunday for the people to collect small denomination currency notes for meeting their urgent needs. Joshy Chirayath, a church trustee, said that they had taken this decision after finding people running from pillar to post for exchanging notes since the withdrawal of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes last week.

    The church is offering the money with a request to the people to return the money collected by them when currency circulation in the country becomes normal. He said many cutting across religious lines had availed the service. 

  • 12:52 (IST)

    Not every place has good internet access

    It's now been almost a week since PM Modi announced the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes and, surprisingly enough, things haven't been so bad.

    Sure, when I first heard the announcement I was on a local train on my way home with a wallet full of soon-to-be-demonetised cash, but my biggest worry at the time was only whether the auto driver would take a Rs 500 note and drop me off home or not.

    I’ve never liked carrying cash, especially loose change, but the necessities of everyday life require it. I’m so averse to change in fact that I just empty my coins into a box at home and forget about it.

    If anything, I was vaguely unconcerned by the announcement. I mean, how bad could it get, right?

    Considering where I live, it actually wasn't so bad. Mumbai is, after all, a modern city and I was pleasantly surprised to see the number of shops accepting PayTM and Debit cards. The aforementioned coin box proved very handy for the small things, paying auto drivers, grabbing a vada pav, etc. For everything else, including local train tickets (UTS for Android, if you’re wondering), there are some very handy apps.

    I still haven’t found a working ATM and am too lazy to stand in queue at the bank, but I really don’t care for the time being. However, this is just me. I can afford to be irresponsible about this. Not everyone can.

    What happens when you’re in a city with limited internet penetration, where smartphones are barely a thing? My cousin, who’s slumming it out in an engineering college hostel that’s miles from anything resembling a city, is really struggling. He needs cash for everything from food and water to books and internet access.

    Every ATM around is out of cash, banks feature hours-long queues and no restaurant around there takes debit cards.

    How does he get through a cash-less week? He can’t afford it.

  • 12:35 (IST)

    People planning to skip meals

    Maya Palit, staff writer at The Ladies Finger, says:

    "I visited HDFC branches three times last week, the queues spilling on to the street and meandering for about half a block. All three times, the cash ran out before I got to the teller. The shutters came down, and the guard shouted 'Out of Service!'."
     
    "A person ahead of me, who was there to get cash for his employer, was planning to skip meals. Two Ola drivers said they were stranded without money for diesel and would have to leave their cars and go home by public transport. A bank employee friend hasn’t been home for three days because of the workload. An auto driver, whose child was in hospital after falling from the second floor, was asked to pay Rs 18,000 for the operation in 100 rupee notes. Demonetisation has been inconvenient for everyone, but threatens some sections of society in a very palpable way."

With banks closed in many parts of the country, cash-strapped people started making a beeline, early in the morning, outside ATMs but with limited success as most of the cash vending machines are running dry.

Scuffle and heated exchanges were reported from ATMs and banks from many parts of the country.

india_cr demonetisation

Various sections of the society including small traders, restaurant owners, transporters etc started feeling the heat as the dependence on cash is very high.

Banks are unable to service as heavy rush making it difficult to handle the situation.

After government issued advisory banks have started making special arrangement for elderly and physically challenged.

In a bid to provide convenience to people, the Centre on Sunday eased key restrictions including raising daily withdrawal limit from bank accounts and ATMs as well as increased the amount of old and now defunct currency notes that can be exchanged.

To augment cash supplies, newly printed hard-to-fake Rs 500 notes were also released in market.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday night announced the surprise demonetisation of higher denomination notes.

After a review by the finance ministry, the limit of old and now defunct Rs 500 and 1,000 notes that can be exchanged for freshly minted Rs 2,000 and a new Rs 500 notes was increased from Rs 4,000 to Rs 4,500 yesterday.

Cash withdrawal limit at ATMs was hiked to Rs 2,500 from Rs 2,000 a day.

Over 12,000 Delhi Police, Rapid Action Force and paramilitary personnel were deployed on Sunday to maintain law and order as a large number of people queued up to withdraw money or get their notes exchanged at various banks and ATMs in the city.

Owing to a Sunday, there was more crowd outside banks and ATMs, and personnel of Delhi Police, RAF and paramilitary forces were ensuring that people stay in queues and maintain law and order, a Delhi Police official said.

"More than 12,000 personnel of Delhi Police were manning banks and ATMs across the city. They were ensuring that people stay in queues. We are committed to maintain law and order in the city," Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat said.

With inputs from agencies


Published Date: Nov 14, 2016 12:49 pm | Updated Date: Nov 14, 2016 06:10 pm

Also See