Cash shortage, longer queues continue

I was told the HDFC bank is doing a good job in dispensing cash almost everywhere. So today morning I went to a local branch and saw a queue of about 60 people already waiting there…at 7 am!

I was asked to write my name on a paper which had a list of people waiting for a token. My token no. would be 59. The bank would open its shutter at about 9.30 am. The tokens would be distributed starting 10.15 am, one of the assembled people there told me. And the cash would be distributed starting 12.

So, I left for home and came back with wife at about 11 am. The bank employees said they have already distributed 45 tokens and that they won’t give away any more. Only 45 tokens. Assuming they distributed about Rs 6,000 per token today, (average money given away by banks of late has been Rs 4,000, more or less.) the total cash distributed by the bank amounts to a paltry Rs 270,000. Even if we assume the money allowed to be withdrawn was the maximum limit of Rs 10K, that still amounts to only Rs 450,000.

Note this is the third Saturday of the month. Not the first week, the salary week. During the salary week, too, the average amount disbursed almost everywhere, at least here in Hyderabad, was mostly Rs 4K or Rs 5K, tops. After futilely trying at the start of the month, we strategically decided to come now. But running into the third week, this is the same case.

Dejected, we went to a nearby Axis branch. Thankfully, there were no tokens, nor was a long queue to be seen. I had to wait for about an hour before the teller gave me Rs 4K. Though, we were finally relieved that we got something in our hand, it was a close call as the shutters of this bank were closed minutes after we entered in. Or else, we would have returned home empty-handed like others. This was sheer luck.

After collecting the two precious pink notes from the counter, I asked the teller if there is any hope of collecting more cash next week. She said it’s subjected to the total liquidity they receive from the RBI. But her tone and the recent trends indicates it’s wishful thinking to expect more cash over the counter in the coming days.

What was more telling was what she said about the denominations. Of late, they have been receiving only Rs 2,000 notes. Rs 100 and the new Rs 500 currencies were just not available. That suggests the RBI wants to distribute maximum money in the form of less cash. But the fact that the top banks have been distributing only Rs 4,000 shows that either precious little cash is coming from the central bank or there is a severe leakage at some stage, causing the shortage. Regardless, neither the queues nor the disappointments aren’t getting any shorter.


Standing in a queue

We were standing in a queue at a bank to exchange many of our older 500 Rupee notes.

The queue was moving at a snail’s pace since morning. Every half an hour, the many steps in the entire line were trudging along a few steps.

The sun was as relentless as ever. A few tree branches intermediately interrupted the sun to provide us some desperate shelter.

I appreciate the Art of Living volunteers who were providing people in the queue with water and biscuits. I gather there are volunteers of other organisations too acting like good Samaritans.

Those supporting the demonetisation move are asking others to accept this tedious process “in the nation’s interest”. I agree with that on principle. But there are practical inconveniences one can’t ignore.

The bank executives too seemed frustrated. After all, the poor souls were made to work on a weekend.

Anyways. We stood in the immovable queue, joking and chit-chatting to lighten up our mood.

Just as we gathered hope with the line making progress slowly but surely, a traffic cop bypassed all of us, entered the branch like he was walking into a park.

A few minutes later, he emerged outside, strutting like a peacock and disappeared with a grin. People started protesting.

The security guard told us he can’t stop “an authority”. That made people angrier. It was as if there was no meaning in our labour.

The guard was given an earful. “If people like Rahul Gandhi can stand with us in the queue, who the hell was that guy?” a young man fired at him who even threatened to move in similarly. He was obviously stopped.

More voices expressed their shock at what was witnessed but it was of no use. The robbery was successful in full public view.

We were ultimately asked to shut up. In the nation’s interest.