In Bhandewara, villagers waiting in the long bank queue are leaving either with coins or with nothing at all.
Bhandewara, Uttar Pradesh: Imagine you give your bank a Rs 1000 cheque to cash. In return, they give you 200 Rs 5 coins weighing more than 1.5 kg, or worse, 1000 Rs 1 coins weighing nearly 5 kg. That’s a reality that residents and farmers in this village near Allahabad are grappling with, as banks struggle to keep up with the government’s recent move to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes.
After waiting in a long queue, Mohan Lal, a daily-wage labourer in Bhandewara village in the Karchhana tehsil, had to walk back home with 1000 Rs 1 coins. Rajvati Yadav was slightly luckier – the bank gave her 200 Rs 5 coins.
Standing in queues for hours, the daily course of people living in Bhandewara village has been completely disrupted. The local vendors have the same story to tell. Hanuman Dwivedi, who owns a small candy and snacks kiosk, has been unable to open his shop for four days as he had to stand in a queue to withdraw money.
Some in the village weren’t able to withdraw cash even after standing in a queue for three consecutive days. Among them is Bimla Devi, a domestic worker. According to her, she stood in the bank queue for three days in a row, only to hear the bank employees say that the bank has run out of cash. She had to borrow money from her employer so that she could cook a meal for her husband and ten-year-old son.
Residents of the village say that the bank gave out the new Rs 2,000 notes and notes of other denominations only for few days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation announcement on November 8. Bank employees acknowledged the legitimacy of the complaints raised by residents but said they are doing the best they can, given the circumstances.
A bank employee, who requested anonymity, explained that the gap between the demand and supply of currency notes widened soon after the announcement, and the ensuing cash crunch forced them to resort to coins.
There is only one bank for at least ten villages in Karchhana and the nearest ATM machine for the villagers of Bhandewara is in the distant tehsil headquarters, they complained. Bank employees have been forced to work much longer hours in the past three weeks.
Bhawna Khanna, assistant manager at an HDFC branch in Delhi, acknowledged the frustration of the villagers, but said that at least they were getting money, though in small denominations, to meet their daily needs.