By Adolf Washington
Bengaluru: The crackdown on black money has spared none, except the really corrupt who have already found safe gateways to channelize their ill-gotten lucre, laments Sharmila Nesamani who was midway in a serpentine queue before a Canara Bank branch in Benson Town in Bengaluru
Mohammed Yunus of the same southern Indian city finds the whole exercise of unearthing black money amateurish. “There seems to be not enough cash to give out and the ATM’s software was not updated to dispense 2000-rupee notes. Absence of exclusive additional counters for the exchanging the notes also adds to our woes,” he says while questioning the government’s hurry in implementing the policy without a “proper game-plan.”
Yunus suggests banks open their counters for the public at least 12 hours a day for the next one month. Another suggestion is to rope in corporate houses at least in metros and set up counters at leading IT firms in Bengaluru. “Why can’t they rope in government school teachers to do this work. I guess this government only knows to inconvenience the man on the street,” he bemoans.
Similar tales of woes and opinions were heard from other parts of the country since November 9 when the government demonetized currency notes of 500 and 1,000. While the greater majority suffered untold inconveniences, a crookedly intelligent lot made fast money over the crisis situation.
Some have appeared from nowhere as saviours for the hapless people. The commission-for-exchange touts hover around kiosks close to ATM’s in Bengaluru’s busy places such as Shivajinagar, Majestic, Frazer Town, Tannery Road, Chickpet and KR Market. Even the kiosks have become a new category of ATMs.
ATMs attached to bank branches did dispense money but that did not help shrink the serpentine queues. At some places brawls broke out when security guards objected to some people coming with a large collection of ATM cards to draw money on behalf others, perhaps for a commission, a sort of ‘citizen service.’
On November 12 evening, a bank security guard was seen shouting down an elderly man who flashed his government-issued ‘senior citizen card’ in Jayamahal area of Bengaluru. The veteran wanted to enter the bank ahead of the queue. The guard was blissfully unaware that government directives gave ‘senior citizens’ priority status for bank transactions.
The crackdown has affected even places of worship.
“Dumb-box collections look to have dropped this morning (Sunday),” a priest of city parish in Bengaluru told Matters India on November 13 after taking a curious peek into the collection. But indicating a spirit of understanding he added, “I think my people want to hold on their hundreds and fifties to meet emergencies at home.”
On November 12, a crowd gathered around a storm-water drain near the Banaswadi Fire Station with alleged abandoned bags of currency 1000 and 500 currency note. The cops whisked away in a jeep, a journalist who was clicking pictures. Despite showing his identity card he was not let off easily. The cops were suspended after the journo filed a complaint at the City Police Commissioner’s office over the police obstructing him over doing his duty.
Meanwhile, the Bangalore City police sent out alerts to mobile phone users about a group arrested in Chickmagalur district over circulating fake 2000 rupee new currency notes.
Social media is rife with angry voices. “For three days I have been without money. The ATMs are still down in Coimbatore. All I have now is 100 rupees,” Conway Alweyn from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu says in his Facebook page.
Sister Mariola Sequeira, a social activist in Ajmer, opines: “Everybody knows the fight was fixed, The poor stay poor, the rich get rich.”
Businessmen, who had earlier insisted ready payment, have become magnanimous over night. Provision stores and vendors of vegetables and fruits allowed ‘credit’ or ‘buy now, pay later’ for regular and trustworthy customers.
“I have decided to give credit to my customers and wait a while, but I don’t know how long to wait for this mess to be over. I will need the money soon to replenish my store,” said Nagaraj of Bengaluru’s Kamanahalli market. The middle-aged was sounded both angry and happy at the same.
Cash payment concerns have led some people to cancel pre-planned programs. “We had planned and scheduled an event in our parish on November 13. Now, everything is stuck as I am unable to get sufficient new currency. Even the money I had paid in old currency notes for organizing the event was returned to me. Never before had I experienced such helplessness and difficulty,” Fr. Amal Raj Crispin of Bangalore archdiocese told Matters India.
He saw the currency crisis as the re-visitation of emperor Mohammed Bin-Tuglaq. The 14th century ruler of Delhi was known for his foolish and senseless policies such shifting the capital along with its people from Delhi to Daulatabad (in present-day Maharashtra) in the Deccan region of south India. Eight years later, the capital was shifted back to Delhi.
“Modi and his herds discussed and announced their arm-chair philosophy in a air conditioned room and the common citizens are to bear the brunt of scorching sun and long queues. Anyone who criticizes Modi and his policies are labelled as anti-national, anti-India, corrupt, traitor,” the priest added.
Salesian Father C.M. Paul, Station Director, Radio Salesian 90.8 FM of Salesian College Sonada in Darjeeling narrated the severe hardships his students underwent. “Students from our college took leave (Saturday half day) stood in the line from 7 am (walked 2 km to reach the bank) along with some 5,000 people in Sonada a town nestled at 6,500 ft above sea level to wait their turn to change money when the bank opened at 10 am. They returned only by 3.30 pm.”
People in Pune such as Deven Sequeira went to at least 10 ATMs on two consecutive days but there was no money. “I saw serpentine queues in at least 5 banks. I was trying to hold on to a few of my 100s till I get my replacement cash.”
Medical professional Bijoy Mathew Augustine of Bengaluru found it difficult to even to buy basic provisions including vegetables. He sympathizes with those waiting before banks and ATM at night, sacrificing sleep. However, he says such sacrifice is worth the trouble if “this exercise can rid corruption from this country.”
Selvaraj a Uber cab driver kissed the 100 rupee note and said, “From morning this is the first currency I am receiving, everybody’s been paying through ‘Paytm’ (electronic valet) and I didn’t get tips too.”