Kolkata denizens in mad scramble for ‘precious’ change, face hardships
Maria Pierce, a French woman who was in the city for the first time, had a verbal duel with a taxi driver who refused to accept Rs 1000 note from her.
She had taken the taxi to reach a guest house on Purnadas Road in South Kolkata and was supposed to pay Rs 600 as fare. She gave a Rs 1000 note to the taxi driver which he refused to accept. After arguing for 15 minutes, she tried to walk away with her luggage but the taxi driver detained her. Both of them began to shout at each other. However, the situation was brought under control by some local youth and staff of the guest house who intervened and requested the driver to take the money.
This is among hundreds of incidents in the state on Wednesday when taxi drivers, service providers, medical stores, vegetable vendors and even railway booking offices refused to accept Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes. The worst-hit were the common people, many of whom could not buy vegetables after the vendors wanted them to pay the exact amount or take vegetables worth Rs 500.
The medicine shops also asked customers to either pay the exact amount or buy medicines worth Rs 500 or Rs 1000. Many of the domestic helps who got their salaries in the past few days returned the money to their employers and requested them to give currency notes of lesser denomination as they were not able to buy things from the market.
There was tension on Wednesday morning at Tollygunge and MG Road when CESC employees refused to take Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes from the consumers, who put up a roadblock on MG Road for 10 minutes. Later, both CESC and State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (WBSEDCL) extended the last date of payment of electricity bill to November 15.
Santanu Rakshit whose brother is admitted to NRS Medical College and Hospital alleged that the fair price shop refused to accept Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes. “The shop’s staff refused to give me medicine even though I produced the doctor’s prescription. Who will give me change? How will I be able to save my brother whose condition is critical,” Rakshit asked.
Monotosh Saha who was supposed to travel to Jharkhand was visibly agitated when the booking clerk at Sealdah station asked him to pay the exact train fare. “I have to reach Jharkhand by this (Wednesday) evening. But now I do not know what to do,” he said.
Roads in the city wore a relatively deserted look on Wednesday. The petrol pumps stopped giving fuel to customers due to paucity of change. Bus owners said as most of the petrol pumps refused to give fuel due to shortage of change, they might face problems in running buses and taxis from Thursday.
Only the fish vendors accepted Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes as they desperately wanted to clear the stock. However, they anticipate major chaos on Thursday as the wholesale market will face similar difficulty due to shortage of change.
In the morning, long queues were seen at toll plazas where car owners tried to get some change.