Queues increase, anger rises, but Mumbaiites stay helpful
Prime minister Narendra Modi warned of more action against people holding illicit cash even as anger rose across the country on Saturday with ATMs running dry and banks struggling to dispense cash three days after the government demonetised high-value banknotes.
Union finance minister Arun Jaitley said it will take two-three weeks to upgrade the automated tellers machines (ATMs) to enable them to dispense the new Rs2,000 and Rs500 banknotes.
“I would like to announce once again that after the end of this scheme, there is no guarantee that something new will not be introduced to punish you (the corrupt),” Modi told members of the Indian community in Kobe, Japan. “I salute my countrymen. People stood in line for four hours, six hours but accepted the decision in national interest... But I never thought I will receive blessings for this.”
But back home, the initial public support for the clampdown on “black money” appeared to be waning as millions of people stood in serpentine queues in banks and ATMs for hours and yet failed to either exchange their old notes or withdraw any cash.
There were reports of angry people breaking the glass façade of a bank in Delhi while television footage showed police caning and shoving people at another branch. Reports of people falling unconscious PM Narendra Modi with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe boarding the bullet train to Kobe from Tokyo on Saturday.
and even dying from exhaustion fuelled public anger despite the government’s announcements about having “enough cash” to meet the demand.
The death of at least five people, including a child, across the country are said to be linked to government’s shock decision. Police booked a doctor in Mumbai after he allegedly refused treatment to a baby as the father could not pay immediately. The baby later died.
Fisticuffs also broke out among customers in several parts of the country with ire directed at bank officials, made to work this weekend to meet the huge demand for lower denomination currency.
The chaos and confusion over banknotes continued on Saturday, three days after the Centre demonetised the Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes. Serpentine queues were witnessed outside ATMs and banks again, and many Mumbaiites were forced to return without being able to get cash or exchange their old notes.
Kapila Engineer, a housewife, who queued up at a Borivli ATM twice on Saturday, said it was frustrating to come every day and stand in a line to withdraw money. “Only two ATM machines are functioning of every 10 kiosks in Borivli. We are losing patience now,” she said.
Sanjeeva Rao, a general store owner, said two of his workers did not come to work as they were busy standing in queues outside banks. “I have no one to run my shop or stand in line and exchange currency for me,” he said.
At some places, however, there was some respite for Mumbaiites. At High Street Phoenix in Lower Parel, valet parking was made free for car owners on Saturday evening. “Several customers complained of not having change and we didn’t want to inconvenience them, so we decided to waive off the valet charges,” said a customer care executive at the mall.
The turf war between the executive and the judiciary over the appointments of judges has had a positive fallout this year.
With the government paving the way for 25 more judges by early next week, 2016 will see the highest number of appointments being made in the higher judiciary in one year.
Highly placed sources in the ministry of law and justice told HT that the government has cleared the names of over two dozen judges, to be notified by mid-November.