By Fakir Balaji
Even 13 days after the demonetisation of higher currency, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has not yet released the new Rs 500 notes in Karnataka, resulting in continuing cash chaos in the state.
"We have not yet received the new Rs 500 notes from our central office in Mumbai to distribute them to banks in the state. We are also waiting for information about its supply," an official at the RBI regional office told IANS on Monday.
Though the central bank started distributing wads of new Rs 2,000 notes from November 10 to treasury chests of all banks and post offices across the state, the absence of the new Rs 500 notes has caused untold hardship to millions since the old Rs 500 note was suddenly scrapped.
As the old Rs 500 note was the third largest currency in usage after Rs 1,000 and Rs 100 notes, its demonetisation along with that of Rs 1,000 note created a huge void, which the RBI and banks were finding difficult to fill.
"Our officials have been queuing up at the RBI's local office for the Rs 500 notes over the last 10 days. We are unable to ease the situation as the demand for them is more than for Rs 2,000 or Rs 100 notes," A.N. Krishna Murthy, General Secretary of All India Bank Officers Confederation, told IANS.
According to the central bank data, 86 per cent of the value of the currency (Rs 14 lakh crore) in circulation rendered invalid, Rs 7.85 lakh crore were in the form of Rs 500 and Rs 6.33 lakh crore in Rs 1,000.
"We have been assured of getting the new 500 notes this week for disbursement as they are being printed round-the-clock at the security presses in the country, including one at Mysuru," Murthy said.
With not many takers for the new Rs 2,000 notes due to the severe problem of getting them exchanged or change in lieu of it in Rs 100 or Rs 50 notes, the Rs 500 note has become the most sought after currency in the state, especially in this tech hub, the third largest city after Mumbai and New Delhi in cash flows.
"We are helpless when even ordinary customers ask for the new Rs 500 notes. We are unable to explain the reason for its absence. Till date, the RBI is yet to supply us," lamented SBI branch manager Sreenivasa Rao in the city.
As hundreds of ATMs across the city are yet to be re-calibrated to disperse the new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 notes and many of them running out of other denominated notes within hours of refilling, customers and banks have been struggling to manage the alarming situation.
"We fail to understand why the government had scrapped the old Rs 500 notes when the RBI did not have the new notes in its place to replace or supply them in sufficient quantity in time to avoid such inconvenience to us," asked N. Kashinath, an entrepreneur who makes farm equipment.
While crores of old Rs 500 notes are being deposited in banks, exchanged for Rs 2,000 or other notes and used for paying utility bills, at hospitals, petrol outlets and other designated places, small traders and shopkeepers have resorted to giving signed or stamped receipts for the balance amount in exchange of them (old Rs 500) or goods equivalent to its value.
"As the Rs 500 note is the most used note for purchases above Rs 200 or 300 or Rs 600 or Rs 700, we are finding it very difficult to manage business, which has been hit hard. With the shortage of Rs 100 and Rs 50 notes, we are maintaining debit and credit accounts for regular customers," said department stores owner Mohammed Moiddin in the city's eastern suburb.