INDIA: Assuring people that their hard-earned money is safe, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said there is no need to panic, urging people to stagger depositing defunct currency and not crowd banks.
“Government regrets people are being inconvenienced and are being forced to stand to queues but since it is an enormous task and it will take two-three weeks for ATMs to provide some reprieve.”
Jaitley said ATMs have not been re-calibrated for new Rs 2,000 currency notes. “The process is on,” he said. “The dispersal of that currency may be uneven. Some regions will have more of a certain currency and less of another.”
“Since every ATM needs to be recalibrated to accommodate the new denominations, so it is obvious that it is taking time,” he said, adding that the government is looking at records of bullion purchases and records are being verified.
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“As of now everyone need not come to deposit old notes in the beginning days itself, you have time till December 30.”
Other than normal transactions, there has been a big rush to exchange notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000, Jaitley said.
Thanking people for ‘their patience and cooperation’, Jaitley said also lauded bank employees for handling working for such long hours from early morning to night, without taking offs.
This is a massive operation, Jaitley said, adding, “It was expected that there will be some difficulty for the first few days as 86% currency is changed”.
He mentioned that till 12.15 pm on Saturday, State Bank of India alone made 2 crores 28 lakh transactions. He added that 25% of the total banking operations in India are by SBI and its affiliates.
He put the total monetary transactions in the SBI at Rs 54,370 crore, of which Rs 47,868 crore deposits.
Around 58 lakh people have exchanged notes at SBI till 12:15 on Saturday, the finance minister said.
Talking of the problems being faced by people everywhere, Jaitley said 2 lakh ATM machines could not be recalibrated since it was important to maintain secrecy in this most crucial matter. He said ATMs have not been re-calibrated for the new Rs 2000 currency note, adding that the process was on.
It would take around 2-3 weeks to recalibrate these machines, Jaitley informed the media.
He also talked of the different political reactions, some of which he said was really irresponsible.
On exchanging Rs 4,000
While clarifying that there was no decision to ban people from exchanging Rs 4000 more than once, the finance minister, however, upheld the banks’ move to stop people from doing so.
It is administratively difficult for banks to allow people to exchange Rs 4000 daily, he said. He said that it was advisable that instead of this, people withdraw from their accounts.
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ATMs run out of cash
While banks have started dispensing the new Rs 500 and Rs 2000 bills, the situation at ATMs seems dire with reports of many being shut as they ran out of cash.
ATMs across the country will dispense only Rs 100 notes for the next few weeks.
This means machines will be stocked with less cash overall because of the lower denomination of notes.
Usually, ATMs could store Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes and there could be, technically Rs 88 lakh in an ATM if all were Rs 1000 notes. This was limited by a ceiling imposed by the RBI.
A typical ATM has four cassettes in it. Each cassette holds 22 packets of notes. Each packet has 100 notes in it.
Now, with most dispensing Rs 100 notes, the maximum each ATM will hold is Rs 8.8 lakh.
Assuming each person going into an ATM draws to the upper limit of Rs 2000, that makes it 20 notes. That, in turn, means each ATM can handle a maximum of 440 transactions per day.