People standing outside HDFC Bank in Mumbai last week.
The frenzy that demonetisation brought to newsrooms slowly shifted to banks as the reality of demonetisation became more clear. At forefront of the whole exercise were bank employees who, on one hand, must follow government directives and, on the other, face the displeasure expressed by common people.
Amidst all this chaos, PaGaLGuY spoke to bankers who are facing the music quite literally.
A senior officer with IDBI, said, “Demonetisation has been a hectic time for us. The onus is with us to ensure maximum collection of old notes in a fair manner such that honest customers are not hassled. We are doing our best to help out people in whatever way we can.”
Though appreciating the intention of the government behind the move, the officer felt that the implementation of the decision was not thought through properly. Clarifying his point, the officer said, “Stock of new notes is not in adequate supply. This means people need to withdraw small amount of money at regular intervals. So, the queues do not reduce in size.”
Another official from a bank in Palghar district of Maharashtra said, “Our bank has had far lesser crowds then others because ours’ is a co-operative bank.” According to Reserve Bank of India (RBI) instructions, co-operative banks are not part of the demonetisation exercise. The officer added, “The situation is funny in a way. We have been kept out of the process because of the perception that we do not comply with Know Your Customer (KYC) norms. But petrol pumps are officially part of the process. It is unclear how petrol pumps follow better KYC norms than us.”
A typical day in the bank is now different with demonetisation. Most staff are delegated to cater to customers’ need to exchange/deposit old currency notes and withdraw new notes.
At a Bhiwandi (near Mumbai) branch of a public-sector bank, there was no queue for the disabled. A ‘disabled’ person approached the cash counter to withdraw money. However, when someone from the crowd noticed him, the ‘disabled’ person was punched. This person gathered himself and ran out the door! Such are the experiences that bankers are coming across on a day-to-day basis.
Most other bankers that PaGaLGuY spoke to agree that the effect of demonetisation is in the short term. Another IDBI official highlighted how a customer who deposited Rs four lakh in his account at a bank in Nagpur received a notice from the Income Tax department (IT) the very next day. This was because of a mismatch between his declared sources of income and money present in his account.
Though this seems to be good to ears, there is also news about new notes being recovered from terrorists in Bandipora, Jammu and Kashmir who were killed in an encounter with security forces on November 22.
The difference, if any, that demonetisation has or will bring can only be gauged after December 31, 2016.