"One person just quickly steps out to get juice for all of the other staff members. That’s our lunch."

Demonetisation fallout Across the counter overworked bankers with no lunch breaks PTI photo
news Demonetisation Monday, November 14, 2016 - 17:02

Five days after Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes were demonetized, serpentine queues continue outside banks and ATMs. And while we discuss how inconvenienced people from different sections of the society are because of the move, bank officials’ schedules have been sent into a tizzy as well.

Tirupati-based Avantika* has been working in a nationalized bank for the past 25 years. While her day usually begins at 10am, she has been starting out much earlier these days: she has to be at the Currency Chest at 8am to collect cash for the day. And while they shut at the usual 5.30pm, the sheer number of transactions in a day ensures that they do not finish tallying them before 9.30pm.

Even with the increased number working hours, Avantika says they have to turn some customers away at the end of the day. But the most difficult part is placating panicked people, many of whom ask for larger amounts when withdrawing money. “The cash reserves will run out quickly if we keep giving out larger amounts. But we do make exceptions for people in dire needs, like when they need it for medical expenses or funerals. We have given a few people larger amounts within the limit of Rs 10,000,” she says.

For Govind Menon*, an HDFC bank employee in Thrissur, demonetization has not only meant over-time but also almost no time to have a peaceful meal in the day. “Until Sunday, we did not close the branch before 12am. Because of the rush for the past few days, it has become difficult to grab a bite in between work. One person just quickly steps out to get juice for all of the other staff members. That’s our lunch,” he narrates.  

Govind does not know if he will be compensated monetarily or in the form of additional leaves. The only acknowledgement they have received so far is an email from saying that the extra effort is being “appreciated”, he informs.

Saraswati SK, manager at a Canara Bank branch in Bangarpete in Karnataka’s Kolar district, is in a similar dilemma with regard to compensation. She says that while they have been working on all days of the week as instructed, there has been no communication so far saying that their leaves would be reimbursed. 

The situation is slightly different for Abhilash*, who has been working as a probationary officer in a State Bank of India branch in Mangaluru, for the past year. While he and other managerial staff should be receiving Rs 2500 per day for the weekends, he doesn’t know if they will be paid for over-time during the weekdays.

“The clerical staff will be compensated on an hourly basis according to the guidelines laid down for over-time work. But for us, (managerial staff), who do not come under the staff union, but the office association, the over-time payment rules do not apply,” Abhilash says.

Mahaveer*, who works with an ICICI Bank branch in Sanjaynagar, Bengaluru, says that they are receiving a footfall of nearly 2,000 people per day, which means that taking breaks is next to impossible. Avantika says that they are expecting the rush to last till November-end as the withdrawal limit will increase further. “We have taken permission from our regional office to deploy two policemen from the nearby police station to manage the crowd and avoid any untoward incidents,” she says.

With the large number of people coming to banks every day, the need to authenticate the old notes banks are accepting is higher too. “We use methods like UV light scanners to pick fake ones out. If we do accept fake notes by mistake, we have to pay the same amount from our pocket,” Avantika says. 

While officials say that customers have been largely cooperative so far, scuffles tend to break out over things like people breaking queues, Avantika informs. “The customers are quite angry about the rules and sometimes they misdirect the anger at us. We are trying very hard to satisfy them. It is quite saddening that we are not receiving any appreciation from them,” she rues.

But despite the inconvenience caused, many bank officials seem to be taking the extra effort in good spirit. “We are all adjusting, what else can we do? This is our work and we are doing it,” laughs Abhilash. Govind agrees: “If our efforts will add up to a greater cause, we don’t mind.”


(*Names changed on request)

(Inputs from Theja Ram, Megha Varier and Gayathri Anuradha)


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