Anarchy across India as people pay the price for govt's cashless dream

Sadiq Naqvi and Shahnawaz Malik | First published: 12 November 2016, 23:40 IST
ban leads to chaos

The sudden move to ban all existing Rs 1000 and Rs 500 notes has thrown ordinary life out of gear across India. Multiple reports coming from the states and the national capital paint a picture of chaos. And that if things do not normalise soon, the country may be staring at a scale of disturbances it has not witnessed before.

The scene at the many banks and ATMs in the national capital, where angry people waited for their turn for hours, even as many had to go back empty handed for the banks ran out of cash, signals the growing anger against what many call a badly planned and hastily executed decision.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's statement, that ATMs will take another couple of weeks to normalise operations as they need to be recalibrated, also means situation will not change soon.

Chaos across India

In Muzaffarnagar in the prosperous sugarcane belt in UP, on Friday, police had to resort to lathi charge and reportedly fire in the air, after angry locals started vandalising a Punjab National Bank branch in civil lines area over delays in transaction. An Axis Bank employee, points out the supply of currency has come down to as much as 20% of the normal levels after the decision, resulting in shortage of cash.

In Noida, an infant reportedly died after Union Minister Mahesh Sharma's Kailash Hospital, reportedly asked for an advance of Rs 10,000 and then refused to take the old currency notes. This allegation has been made by Abhishek, the father of the deceased child. Sharma has reportedly denied the allegations.

"An infant died after Mahesh Sharma's hospital allegedly refuses to accept old currency notes"

In other instances, people were found looking for cash to perform the last rites of their dead relatives.

In Meerut, the family of Bela Devi, who died of old age, waited unsuccessfully in a long queue to exchange notes, according to another report.

In Bihar's Kaimur district, a man named Ram Awadh died after he was unable to arrange funds for his daughter's wedding. The bridegroom's family had demanded a dowry of Rs 35,000, which he somehow managed to arrange. But PM Modi's announcement that Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes will cease to be legal tender changed everything. Driven by anxiety that the bridegroom's family won't accept the money and call off the wedding, Ram Awadh had a heart attack and died.

In Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh, angry villagers in Bardaha village, looted a ration shop, since they, reportedly did not have cash to purchase essential food items.

In the backward Mewat region of Haryana, there were reports of police resorting to lathi charge to contain the angry crowd. The Mewat district, which according to the latest census has a population of more than 1 million, has just 25 ATMs, according to a government website.

Reportedly, only 28-32% of the country's population has access to financial institutions and 33% of the 138,626 bank branches are in 60 Tier-1 and Tier-2 cities. These figures stare in the face of claims of the Union government, which says this move will help in taking the country to a cashless economy, promoting plastic money.

"There is restlessness among the people after the decision to ban currency notes," a top cop from UP, told Catch. Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and several other states saw a mad rush on Friday evening after rumours on shortage of salt flew thick.