Anger spills as cashless pain surges on payday

New Delhi:  Already starved of cash due to demonetisation, people across India suffered more pain amid stray violence on Thursday as queues outside banks and ATMs got longer after November salaries and pensions were credited.
As the government struggled to keep pace with the demand for cash after 86 per cent of currency -- 500 and 1,000 rupee notes -- in circulation was declared illegal on November 8, people appeared to be losing patience in a country where nearly 80 per cent of consumer payments are done in cash.

In Uttar Pradesh, police said violence erupted at many places as mobs targeted banks and staffers after being told there was either little or no cash available to be withdrawn.

Hundreds of irate customers went on a rampage at a Syndicate Bank branch on Hapur Road in Meerut after it ran dry. Dozens of vehicles were damaged, traffic was disrupted and an effigy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was burnt, witnesses said. Violence was also reported in at least two dozens places in the state.

Chaotic queues tested people's patience as millions in India waited in long lines for money to meet their monthly needs and pay their domestic help, school fees and clear their monthly grocery and other bills.

People were agitated as several banks rationed withdrawals -- despite the government's upper limit of Rs 24,000 a week.

Some bank officials said they were getting cash from the Reserve Bank of India much below their needs. A banker in Delhi told IANS that on a "payday we got only one-fifth of the normal".

"Since the demand is already higher than normal (due to three weeks of cashlessness) and the supply is already low (because mints haven't been able to print enough currency), we have to ration the cash," the banker said, requesting he should not be named.

In Kolkata, the city of joy, an angry mob surrounded the manager of a state-run Punjab National Bank branch and a section of government staff protested at the RBI office after failing to get cash.

Bank Employees Federation of India's General Secretary Pradip Kumar Biswas said bankers were putting the cap on the withdrawal limit "to serve the maximum number of customers with the available cash".

On the roads in Delhi and adjoining areas, people, anticipating massive queues, waited outside ATMs and banks since ealry morning to be among the first to get money. But many returned disappointed.

Shiv Kumar of Noida said he reached the ICICI Bank in Sector 18 hours before it opened. "Though the limit on withdrawals is Rs 24,000, banks are giving away only Rs 5,000," he said, after a nearly three-hour wait.

Chandana Bardia said she visited an Oriental Bank of Commerce branch in north Delhi five times in the last one week but was always denied cash. 

"On my sixth time today (Thursday), I told them I am not returning. I had two cheques of Rs 24,000. One in my name and the other in my mother-in-law's. I was told I could only get cash on my behalf and that too just Rs 6,000. I accepted," she said.

In Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh, as people in various places queued up to get money, they were greeted to the signs of 'No Cash' outside banks and ATMs. 

The scenes and situations were the same almost everywhere in the country -- harassed and irritated people, helpless bank staff and no guarantee of when customers will get their hands on their own money.

In Kerala, some 42 state treasuries were running dry. State Finance Minister Thomas Issac said: "Banks do not have money to disburse." 

But in Tripura, the crowds at banks and ATMs were not as massive as feared.