New Delhi – Indians waited in long queues outside banks on Thursday to exchange money after the country’s highest-denomination currency notes were withdrawn as part of a government crackdown on corruption.
The government announced on Tuesday that from midnight that day, 500 and 1,000 rupee notes (7.5 and 15 dollars) would no longer be legal tender.
ATMs across the country were closed for two days and banks were closed on Wednesday to stock up on new currency, leaving bewildered people scrambling to make do with 100 rupee notes and smaller denominations.
Indians showing 1000 and 500 rupee notes while waiting on long lines to exchange old currency for new at banks Kolkata. In a surprise announcement late Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi banned 500-rupee and 1,000-rupee notes effective midnight, sweeping away 86 per cent of the total currency in circulation. Photo: Debajyoti Chakraborty/NurPhoto via ZUMA Press
Indians now have until December 30 to deposit the old notes in their bank accounts or exchange them at bank counters.
“This bank has run out of cash,” Reema Choudhury, 24, said as she rushed with two dozen others from one bank to another in the busy commercial area of Janpath in New Delhi.
Choudhury said her sister was getting married on Saturday. “We withdrew cash last Friday and the bank gave us all these 1,000 rupee notes.”
There was a similar rush at banks across the country, with queues forming early in the morning, the NDTV news channel reported.
“There is no need to rush to the banks, there is a lot of time to exchange notes,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said at a briefing.
“Small depositors do not have to worry. Only those with large amounts of undisclosed money will have to face consequences under existing tax laws.”
The government has come under criticism for its actions from the opposition Bahujan Samaj Party.
“The Bharatiya Janata Party government is anti-poor. They have created an emergency-like situation,” opposition leader Mayawati said, adding that the poor, many of whom did not have bank accounts, were being adversely affected.