These were the instructions issued to 1.54 lakh post offices across the country.

Come back tomorrow say post offices
news Wednesday, November 09, 2016 - 13:31

Around 9am, soon after a post office in Thippsandra in Bengaluru opened for business, a man walked in and asked in Hindi if he could exchange the now de-monetised notes. 

“Come back tomorrow,” one of the male staff members said. “No, there will be no transactions today. Notes will only be exchanged tomorrow.” 

When did he think things would start moving? “We don’t know. We have been told not to do anything today. We ourselves have to send our (Rs 500 and Rs 1,000) notes back.” 

At the General Post Office in Bengaluru, the head post office for the Karnataka capital, security guards did not let anyone in. “We have been told to tell people to return tomorrow.”

Outside most post offices, a sheet of paper with the India Post logo tells people to return on November 10 and provides instructions in English on how the exchange of notes will be done. 

On Wednesday, these were the instructions that 1.54 lakh post offices across the country had received. Ninety percent of these are in rural areas. 

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement on the withdrawal of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on Tuesday took the whole country by surprise, the Department of Posts sent out emails to its head post offices across the country. 

“Look at the time on the email: 10.51pm,” a senior official at the GPO told The News Minute. The senior officials stood around the cabin of the officer in-charge, speaking in Tamil and Kannada, asking which tasks could be done and what preparations to make for the next day. 

The scene was a stark contrast to the usual murmur of machines and subdued voices on a working day, and did not fit well with the atmosphere of the building, a large imposing structure of the British era with wide rooms and high ceilings. 

According to the instructions received, November 9 is a non-business working day – meaning that post offices would remain open, but not to the public. The communique listed out tasks for the post offices to complete during the next days. 

Post offices would first have to recall the WOS (Withdrawn Old Series) from their own ATMs and post offices. 

Next, Infosys would have to turn off its ATM switch on November 8. All the Postal Department ATMs would have to be reconfigured by Infosys to dispense Rs 100 and Rs 50 notes until further orders. 

Then, the post offices would have work out their requirement of cash, and seek one-and-a-half times that amount in order to be able to begin the exchange on November 10.

On Thursday, post offices have been asked to keep counters open for extended hours to exchange currency, and have been told to hire retired postal employees for a temporary period, if required, to disburse the money.

Old currency notes can be exchanged at any public sector, private or foreign bank, regional rural banks, urban cooperative banks, state cooperative banks, head post offices, and sub post offices. 

People who have postal savings bank accounts can deposit the money into their own accounts.

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