Pic Courtesy – The Hindu
India, Nov 15 (NIA) – 55 year old Mohammed Shafeek has been standing in a queue outside a bank in Mumbai for five hours. He has five Rs 500 bank notes and three Rs.1000 notes. He wants it exchanged as the money does not hold any value.
“I earn a daily wage by doing odd jobs. This is my savings for last month which I need to send to my wife and children. I am from Bihar, in Uttar Pradesh and am in Mumbai to earn a daily wage. If I do not send this money soon my wife and children will be left to starve,” Shafeek said.
“Looking at the long lines, I am not sure when I will be able to get these note exchanged. Most of the shops now do not accept these notes.”
As India’s currency ban took effect last week, causing financial panic to spread across the country, India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, on Monday urged Indians to give him more time to resolve the crisis that followed the withdrawal of high-value notes, insisting the move would benefit the poor in the long run.
In a surprise announcement to his nation on Oct 8, Modi said the Rs.500 and Rs.1000 bank notes will be withdrawn from the country’s financial system from Oct 9 midnight, delivering a severe blow to money launderers and causing pain amongst millions of citizens holding cash savings.
The sudden ban has caused long queues to line up outside banks and ATMs since they reopened last Thursday, two days after Modi’s shocking announcement. The move has to a great extent helped Indian tax authorities to crack down on black money.
However as Indians rely heavily on cash for daily transactions and those living in rural areas or who do not have bank accounts have been hit particularly hard.
Modi said he had been “pained” by the hardships people were facing, but insisted the move would ultimately benefit poor Indians.
“I am aware you are facing difficulties with 500 and 1,000-rupee notes ban. I understand the inconvenience,” he said at a political rally in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, the Guardian reported.
“I am really pained by the inconvenience and that is why I am working tirelessly to help people overcome this situation. I will never let anyone loot money that belongs to India’s poor.”
Modi’s sudden cash ban has been to target tax evaders with large stockpiles of illicit cash, as well as at currency counterfeiters.
The Indian government has said that the 500 and 1,000 rupee notes can be exchanged for new ones or deposited in a bank account until 30 December, but long queues and a lack of cash has hampered that process.
Despite Modi’s pledge that the new Rs.500 and Rs.2000 notes would be distributed to banks and ATMs as soon as possible, public frustration is growing amid continuing delays in dispensing replacement notes at banks and ATMs.
The delays have left ordinary Indians struggling to purchase essential goods and live a normal daily life.
“From last week I have been visiting ATMs and banks to get hold of the new bank notes. But I have had no luck. The banks and ATMs have very few notes. Everything has come to a standstill,” Leela Goshi, a housewife said.
Another Mumbai resident said that the ban had paved way for new forms of corruption to rise as ‘agents’ were charging high percentages to exchange the notes. “With the frustration rising amongst the public, these agents are making a good buck,” the resident who wished to remain anonymous said.