50 days on, nation suffers cashless ATMs
It’s been a rollercoaster ride since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on November 8 that the old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes would no longer be legal tender. Sadly ATMs remain cashless and there is no end to woes of ordinary citizens. Long queues outside banks, frayed tempers and hapless citizens returning empty handed had become a way of life. Small traders, tea, jute and migrant workers were badly by the sudden move. Heart-rending scenes of senior citizens collapsing at bank queues left many shaken. Deposit and exchange norms being constantly tweaked added to the existing confusion.
After Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced demonetisation, the Reserve Bank began to release new Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 notes to banks for distribution to the public. Citizens were told they had until December 30 to deposit their defunct bills in banks or exchange them for new notes. However, it was later announced that there wouldn’t be any over-the-counter exchange of demonetised notes after midnight of November 24, but that deposits could still be made. A RBI circular released on December 19 (which was later withdrawn for KYC-compliant citizens) said that deposits of old notes worth more than Rs 5,000 could be made just once until December 30 if the depositor could satisfactorily explain them.Old notes could still be used for some purposes, such as buying LPG cylinders and railway tickets, till December 15. Currently, the daily withdrawal limit at ATMs is Rs 2,500 and the weekly withdrawal limit is Rs 24,000.
There was an all-out political war between the government and Opposition over the merits and demerits of the move. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee was the first to oppose the move which she said had spelled doom for millions. Later other parties like the Congress and Aam Aadmi party joined the anti-demonetisation brigade.
Former Prime Minister and Congress veteran Dr. Manmohan Singh intervened in the Rajya Sabha, describing the government’s move as “monumental mismanagement.” The Parliament’s Winter Session was marked by repeated adjournments, and the logjam in the legislature prompted President Pranab Mukherjee to remark at an event: “For God’s sake, do your job (in a remark directed at MPs).”
However, some political parties, such as Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janta Dal (United) have supported the move. An unholy nexus between some bank officials and dealers ensured that some managed to get their hands on the newly minted currency.
The Income Tax department has conducted several raids across the country after demonetisation, the most high-profile of which was perhaps the one conducted at the premises of former Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary P Rama Mohana Rao and his relatives. Rs 23 lakh in new currency was seized from the premises of some of Rao’s relatives and associates, officials said. However, they didn’t find any unaccounted money at the chief secretary’s office or house.