On the day when Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was addressing the press over the harassment and ordeal faced by people in the past one month since demonetisation of high value notes was announced by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 8 November, her Cabinet colleague, the state Urban development minister Firhad Hakim was found visiting ATMs to withdraw money to run his household.
Her other colleague, state Panchayat and Rural Development minister Subrata Mukherjee had to draw a self cheque and send a person to withdraw money from his savings account.
Hakim on his way to office had visited a couple of ATMs to withdraw Rs 2,000. But none of the ATMs had cash and he had to return empty-handed. Mukherjee who faced difficulty in meeting his daily expense as only Rs 24,000 per week was allowed, drew a self cheque and sent a person to withdraw the money. “Everyone is facing crisis. How can you pay salaries of those who do household work which is required in the first week of every month when there is an embargo on the withdrawal? One has to attend social functions and there is no money even to buy gifts,” he said.
The owner of a ceremony house in South Kolkata said many people had postponed the marriage of their children due to shortage of cash. “Nobody was ready to fulfil the terms and conditions fixed by the bank to withdraw Rs 2.5 lakh for their daughter’s marriage. The caterer and the decorator will have to file an affidavit in Rs 10 stamp papers that they do not have bank accounts. No one in the city is going to the risk of filing a false affidavit. Many caterers are not ready to take the entire amount in cards,” he said.
Meanwhile, most of the ATMs were closed as there was no money. Long queues were seen outside ATMs that had cash. There has been an acute shortage of Rs 500 notes. Work in government offices was badly hit as the employees came late and left early on the plea that they had to wait in long queues to withdraw money. Soma Chatterjee, a school teacher who stood outside an ATM on Sarat Bose Road said she would be missing the first period on the second consecutive day on Thursday as she had to withdraw money. “The government should have done the homework before introducing such a policy,” she said.