Demonetisation day eight: ATMs run dry, exchange limit lowered to Rs 2,000

In the evening of 8 November, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the nation, announced that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 will no longer be legal tenders. He explained that the decision to demonetise high-value currency notes was taken to flush out black money and end corruption. Thus started the mad scramble for cash.

The move was supposed to give sleepless nights to black money hoarders, but ended up in serpentine queues outside banks and ATMs with anxious citizens putting their lives on hold to exchange old currency notes or simply to withdraw money from ATMs.

It's been over a week since the demonetisation move came into place and the situation is far from normal. Banks are struggling to meet the demands, ATMs are running dry and there is mounting frustration and panic among people.

The government on Wednesday said it will take one more week to recalibrate half of the two lakh ATMs to dispense the new 500 and 2,000 rupee notes and the printing of new Rs 500 notes has been stepped up. Earlier in the week, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said that it will take up to three weeks for all two lakh ATMs in the country to be recalibrated.

 Demonetisation day eight: ATMs run dry, exchange limit lowered to Rs 2,000

People outside a bank in Gurugram. File photo. PTI

Currently, the ATM withdrawal limit from savings bank accounts stands at Rs 2,500 a day, but some ATMs are dispensing only Rs 2,000 notes or Rs 100.

To identify people who have already exchanged money and reduce the chaos at banks and ATMs, banks were directed to start applying indelible ink mark on the right hand index finger of customers in select metro cities. As per the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for exchanging notes, concerned bank branches and post offices would put indelible ink mark on the right index finger of the customer so as to identify that he/she has exchanged the old currency notes once. However, many banks reported shortage or non-availability of ink, which did not make any difference in improving the situation.

On Wednesday, a cash-carrying van was attacked in Assam, killing the driver and three more people. Seventy-year-old Digambar Mariba Kasbe, who was standing in a queue outside a branch of SBI at Tuppain in Maharashtra's Nanded district, collapsed and died, police said.

A 54-year-old bank employee died after he collapsed in a bank branch in Pune during office hours on Wednesday, officials said. According to the latest report, the death toll due to demonetisation now stands at 47.

Modi, at a public meeting in Goa, made a passionate appeal. "My dear countrymen, I have left my home, my family, everything for the nation. Some do it out of pressure. A large number of my countrymen want to be honest. I gave them chance to declare unaccounted money." The government came under fire by the Opposition on the first day of Parliament Winter Session. The move was termed "ill-timed" and "ill-conceived". While Congress' Anand Sharma termed it "insensitive", CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury took a dig at Modi had said, "It reminds me of Marie Antoinette who during the French Revolution said if they [people] don't find bread, why don't they eat cakes. Now, we have Modi Antoinette who says: 'If you don't have paper, use plastic'."

Meanwhile, Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das on Thursday, announced a slew of measures to help tide over the cash crunch. The Government lowered the exchange limit for now-defunct Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes to Rs 2,000 from the existing cap of Rs 4,500, effective Friday.

Among other measures, it has allowed up to Rs 2.5 lakh cash withdrawal from bank account of a bride or groom or their parents for a marriage during the ongoing wedding season. Farmers will be permitted to withdraw up to Rs 25,000 per week and registered agri-traders Rs 50,00 per week from their bank accounts.

"Crop loans are sanctioned by various bank to farmers. The government has allowed Rs 25,000 per week for farmers to draw in cash, subject to the limit of which crops they are sowing. This cash can also be taken from their Kisan credit card," Das said.

Another concession is for farmers who sell their produce through the various Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees.

(With inputs from agencies)

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Updated Date: Nov 17, 2016 12:52:12 IST