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Indians run out of patience as banks & ATMs run out of cash, post-demonetisation

Xinhua | Updated: 2016-11-13 16:35

NEW DELHI -- India's sudden move of scrapping currency notes of higher denominations to curb the menace of black money seems to be a nightmare for the country's poor and the middle class.

Long queues of people stayed outside banks and automated teller machines (ATMs) for depositing as well as swapping with new notes the scrapped notes of 500 Indian rupees ($7.5) and 1,000 Indian rupees ($15) to run their lives.

Anger is brewing with the queues getting longer with each passing day, and the banks and ATMs are running out of cash and limits of daily cash withdrawals make matters worse.

"I stood in a queue for over three hours and when I reached the ATM counter, I came to know that it's out of cash. Weekends are a time to relax but my Sunday is ruined due to improper arrangement by the banks. I have no valid cash in my purse," said Sanjay Singh, an IT professional in Delhi.

Local TV channels reported stories of desperate people trying to scramble to get rid of black money by burning sacks of ill-gotten cash as well as throwing currency notes away in garbage dumps as well as rivers across the country.

On the other hand, there are stories of people facing harrowing time as they are unable to pay for cremations and hospital admissions.

"I am left at the mercy of the hospital authorities who are refusing to admit my wife who had sustained injuries in a road accident," said Ram Lal, a laborer.

Some people welcomed the Indian government's move, but blamed it for lack of proper planning and execution to save the common men from having a harrowing time.

"No doubt the move is aimed at tackling corruption and tax evasion. But many low-income Indians, traders and ordinary savers who rely on the cash economy have been badly hit. Moreover, there are not enough cash at ATMs and there is a limit daily cash withdrawals," said Sunita, a housewife.

With ATMs running out of cash and people out of patience, Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Saturday evening addressed the nation to try to douse people's anger.

He regretted inconvenience caused to the people, adding that the "long-term advantages of this are to the overall economy".

"ATMs had not been adjusted to handle new currency notes prior to the announcement in order to keep it under wraps. Recalibration of ATMs will be completed within two weeks," he said, trying to justify the government's sudden move.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that the currency ban is the "biggest cleanliness drive" against black money hoarders, opposition parties tried to exploit the situation by pointing out the inconvinience caused to the general people.

Delhi's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has called it a "huge scam".

However, experts have welcomed the government's "bold move", saying though consumer spending would likely to dip in the short term, the decision would boost India's gross domestic product in the long run.

The government banned currency notes 500 rupees and 1,000 rupees Tuesday and asked people to exchange the old notes by December 30.

Withdrawals from banks have also been limited to Rs 10,000 ($150) a day and in ATMs, there is also a withdrawal restriction.

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