This is the first Sunday since civil engineer Souvik Sinha joined his job in Kolkata when he failed to go to his ailing mother staying all alone at his residence in Nadia.
The reason being his effort to withdraw money from an ATM in South Kolkata on Saturday night went in vain as the machine went out of cash when his turn came after standing about one and a half hours in a queue.
The situation is similar for all with the situation yet to improve even five days after the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 were announced. Like Sinha, some had failed to buy food for his or her baby while some ran from one ATM to another to withdraw money as they needed money to buy vegetables and essential goods for their family members.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has taken step s to give respite to the people as she had said on Saturday that arrangements to provide drinking water to people standing in queues will be made. On Sunday, drinking water tanks were placed outside 28 Branches and ATMs in the city.
People stood in queues outside Branches of different banks since 5.30 am on Sunday morning. Many had set out of their homes for morning walk and went to their respective banks. There were queues of around at least 200 people outside each and every Branches of all banks.
Sinha said that it had not been possible for him to go to a Branch of his bank to withdraw money as he had to be in his office till evening. “I thought that the situation would become normal till evening and it would not be that difficult to withdraw Rs 2,000 from an ATM. Most ATMs in major part of South Kolkata went out of cash by midnight as a result many people who were standing in queues outside ATMs didn’t get money,” he said adding that he went out searching for an ATM where money is available early in the morning on Sunday as he had plans to leave for Nadia if he gets the money a bit early. But none were functioning. Shutters of most ATMs were pulled down. Finally after around 10.30 am he found an ATM functioning and around 50 people were waiting in a queue to withdraw money.
The rush in banks is comparatively more on Sunday as most people get holidays on Sunday and they targeted the day to withdraw money from bank. “Rest assured that it would take at least five hours,” said Rajendranath Bose to a person, who enquired about the situation at around 1.30 pm on Sunday. The septuagenarian Bose was standing in the queue from 9.30 am bearing the heat of the sun but yet to cross the threshold to enter the bank even after five hours.
After failing to get money even after standing in queue for long hours coupled with misbehaviour of security guards of a Branch of a nationalised bank, a section of people put up a road block at Topsia crossing on Sunday evening. It led to massive traffic congestion in the area.
While there were reports of people losing their patience and getting engaged into clashes following altercations while standing in queues for hours. Policemen and security personnel outside the banks went in a tizzy to tackle the crowd.
Meanwhile, KMC was open on Sunday and taxes paid with old notes were accepted. Mayor Sovan Chatterjee said that KMC will be open on Monday too.
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Payment with old notes: Turturi tea garden workers go on strike
The demonetisation had so far hit the work culture of various industrial sectors and tea trade is not an exception in North Bengal.
The owners of Turturi tea estate at Alipurduar were compelled to shut their shops as they were unable to pay salaries to workers.
The labourers, working there had gone for a cease work following management’s decision to pay salary with old notes.
The cease work at Turtui was not a standalone incident as the North Bengal tea industry is facing severe problems soon after centre’s decision of demonetisation.
Scraping Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes has brought forward a serious challenge to the tea industry in North Bengal as managements of several plantations are in a fix, how to pay the garden labourers on time, while labourers who received wages recently do not know what to do with the money.
This dual challenge has created immense problems for the owners of the garden.
While most garden owners have already withdrawn money from banks to pay the workers, most managements in the hills were about to withdraw cash from banks in a day or two for the purpose. But Rs 20,000 – the maximum one can withdraw in a week till November 24 – would not be enough to pay labourers.
“I have money to pay them but those are Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. I called up a meeting and conveyed the problem. But they decided to go for strike leaving us at a lurch,” said a management worker.
Turturi tea estate will incur a loss of Rs 9 lakh as bunches of tea leaves are stocked in the factory. Moreover, this is the time to pluck the tea leaves from the garden which has stopped.
The gardens in Darjeeling, Terai and Dooars faced severe problems as well. A number of tea gardens, which are supposed to make fortnightly wage payments in the next two-three days, have already withdrawn cash from banks, mostly in these two denominations. They are in a dilemma that they cannot disburse these notes among the workers.
However, the representatives of gardens met bank officials. The bank officials made it clear that as per directive, the ceiling of cash withdrawal from any bank is same for all types of accounts. So, the garden owners have to abide by the norms.
The garden management said that they want to exchange the money they have and can get money too. But the labourers would not wait for that.
Bengal bypolls to be held under demonetisation shadow
The upcoming by-elections in West Bengal is all set to witness demonetisation as the main issue in the polls.
Bypolls are slated in two Lok Sabha seats - Cooch Behar constituency in Cooch Behar district and Tamluk in Purba Medinipur district and Monteswar Assembly seat on November 19 and results will be announced on November 21.
The Cooch Behar bypoll was necessitated by the death of TMC MP Renuka Sinha.
The bypoll to the Tamluk Lok Sabha seat was necessitated by TMC MP Suvendu Adhikari’s resignation as MP to join the state Cabinet as transport minister and the bypoll to Monteswar assembly seat was necessitated due to the death of TMC MLA Sajal Panja.
According to leaders of both the ruling TMC and opposition CPI(M), Congress and BJP, demonetisation all of a sudden has come up as major issue as the common man as well as political parties have been impacted by the Centre’s decision.
“This anti-people decision of demonetisation has affected every citizen of this country. The common man is suffering.
Demonetisation has also impacted our campaign as we are unable to pay the decorators, sound organisers. In Tamluk, most of the rural areas still don’t have proper banking facilities, what will the poor farmers do?” TMC MLA and party candidate from Tamluk seat Dibyendu Adhikari said.
According CPI(M) and Congress leaders, demonetisation has all of a sudden come up as an issue for the polls as they are receiving feedback that people are frustrated because of the new decision.
“We have been campaigning on the issue of communal tensions and poor governance of the state government. But, this demonetisation has become a prominent issue as both political parties and people are opposing it. There are instances that people can’t avail healthcare or food because of this
decision and the situation is much worse in rural areas,” CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said.
The Congress too echoed the views of CPI(M) and TMC.
BJP on the other hand said the elections will be a litmus test as the people will favour the BJP for taking such a bold step in unearthing black money.
“What TMC, Congress and CPI(M) are saying is not right. People of Bengal are happy with this decision and will give a hands down victory to our candidates. It will not only be a message in favour of demonetisation, but also against the anarchy and misrule of TMC,” BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said.