There are numerous complaints about the endless queues at banks and ATMs, but many see demonetisation as a good move.

Demonetisation is costing common people precious time and energy some are ready to wait
news Demonetisation Friday, November 11, 2016 - 18:48

35-year-old Babitha is sitting outside the State Bank of India ATM on MG Road in Thrissur, with her account details and debit card safely tucked inside her hand bag. After standing in a queue that did not move an inch for more than half an hour, she was told the ATM had run out of cash, and it wouldn’t move for a while longer. 

But with no other choice, this home-maker from Manakkody in the district, sat down to wait outside the ATM. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on national television that Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes were invalid since Tuesday, Babitha was taken aback as she had withdrawn the “monthly allowance” her husband sent from Kuwait entirely in high denomination notes. 

“I had to borrow from my parents to pay for urgent needs till yesterday, as I did not have any liquid cash that were not Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes. Tomorrow is my son’s 2nd birthday and we are throwing a party for him. I’m glad the ATMs began functioning today,” Babitha says. 

Babitha’s is just one of the many stories of endless queues and long hours spent waiting to replenish meager stores of spending money coming from across the country. 

52-year-old Joy, a daily wage worker says that the Rs 200 left in his pocket on Tuesday night helped his family survive the shock of demonetisation for the past two days. He does not possess a debit card and is waiting outside SBI bank branch near Municipal Bus Stand.

Shanthi, a 52-year-old domestic help in Chennai has a similar story to tell. 

She lives in a slum in Kottivakkam and is the only working person in her family since her husband is unwell. “I managed with the minimum food stock we had in the house, but today we do not have anything. I have to get money, go back and cook,” she says.

Forty-five-year-old Umesh, a GE employee in Bengaluru, took a day off from work to get some liquid cash that could sustain him and his family for at least a week. 

"I have been waiting here for two hours, and I have finally reached the ATM door. It is a good decision by the government but, I am a little unhappy with the way it has been executed. I don't know if I can get change for Rs 2000 or Rs 500. Even at the ATMs, it is taking so long because people are using three to four cards. And this is consuming time," he adds. 

For Mani, a 34-year-old woman who works at a canteen of a private company in Chennai, demonetisation has brought her life to a standstill. “On Thursday, I waited at Indian Bank to get Rs. 4000 for six hours and by the time, I was called, the money in the bank got over. I have come again today to get money,” she says.

She claims that no bank employees answer her queries properly or help in getting the money exchanged. “After one reaches the counter, they say something is missing and the person has to go stand in the queue all over again,” she says.

Murali, 20, works as a mason at a construction company, says that he has had to make multiple visits to exchange all his cash. "I have taken the token four times. Every time I go with the form, they say you can exchange only Rs 4000. What should I do with the rest of the money?”

Some people also complain that only Rs 2000 notes are often available. “I have been standing here for an hour now. The bank is providing only Rs 2000 notes. So, again we have to go out and get it exchanged which is another issue,” says S Priya, an undergraduate student at SIT college in Chennai.

Xavier, a businessman in Thrissur, says that Malayalis, irrespective of their social standing, have been hit the worst, as online transactions are not popular in Kerala. 

"Very few people use online and credit card payments, which is the problem here. Outlets that accept cashless payments are also very few in number. In such a case, there is no two ways about this crisis... We have to spend our time outside banks and ATMs," Xavier says. 

However, despite the various difficulties, they face, most people are appreciative of the initiative. 

Even as she waits her turn, Babitha reiterates that even though the sudden demonetization has affected the lives of the common man, “it is all for a good cause.”

“This is no doubt an inconvenient business, but it is only people who have loads of cash stacked in their homes, who will have trouble with this. The inconvenience caused to people like me is temporary,” says Joy, a daily wage labourer, before entering branch. 

Geetha, a 44-year-old housewife in Chennai says that she’s using the opportunity to teach her children the value of money, however big or small the amount. “Till now, we were so focussed on having 500 and 100 rupee notes in our pockets. Today, 10 and 100 rupee notes have greater value. I have asked my children to value money after this incident,” she said.

(With inputs from Megha Varier, Pheba Mathew and Sarayu Srinivasan)

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