The inadequate supply of Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 notes in banks and ATM has given birth to a group of touts who are making brisk business.
Some youth, claiming themselves to be representatives of various financial companies are visiting individual households, apartments and housing complexes with proposals to exchange old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes for a certain commission. For every old Rs 500 notes they are giving four one hundred rupee notes.
Under normal situation people would have asked about their credentials but as situation is becoming grim day by day with queues in front of banks becoming longer and whatever change people had to buy essential commodities drying up, many people are accepting their proposals. These agents are visiting grocery shops and vegetable vendors and are accepting old Rs 500 notes against commission.
“I am against paying commission to exchange old Rs 500 notes, but I have no other choice as my daughter is suffering from high fever and the doctor will not accept old notes,” said Sutapa Basu a college teacher.
Some youth were found helping people to erase the ink against commission and the same people were found to standing in the queue after half an hour. “Had this been election then political parties would have raised their voice against this malpractice but as they are getting commission, all are united and are helping the person to exchange old notes,” said Subimal Majumdar, a retired person who came to RBI office to exchange old notes.
In the rural and semi urban areas, the agents are very active and are doing brisk business. There are vast areas under 700 gram panchayats in Bengal where there are no banks and post offices and the agents have targeted poor people who have little cash but no bank account.
“It is not possible for any police to arrest such agents. The police do not have the man power to do this. The police could not provide personnel to man the lines in front of banks and they are being looked after by local youth. Since they are cooperating, this cannot be stopped,” said the officer in charge of a police station.