Money disaster worsens in central Gujarat

Vadodara: In a bitter reminder of demonetization in 2016, several ATMs in central Gujarat have been running dry for the last few days. Even as citizens run from one ATM to another in vain, the banks have expressed helplessness stating that there is shortage of currency notes.
The problem is more acute in smaller towns and villages of the region where even branches of banks have started telling customers to withdraw limited amounts. Some bank branches did not give any cash to customer at all.

Vikky Patel, a resident of Godhra, said, “I have made rounds of my branch to withdraw money for payments of wages to my workers who handle mechanised jobs in farms for my agro company. The bank does not allow withdrawals beyond Rs 10,000.” He added that he has not been able to pay daily wages on a regular basis due to the situation.

The situation is similar across the town. Neha Patel, another resident of the town, “I have been going to the Bank of Baroda ATM since three days as I need cash for my day-to-day expenses. If this continues, I will face difficulties.”

The situation is same across Vadodara, Chhota Udepur, Panchmahal, Dahod and Mahisagar districts. Many banks have even downed the shutters of their ATMs and in some cases even the cash counters are unmanned at times in the day.

A senior Bank of Baroda official said that they have intimated the district collectors regarding the situation and asked them to intervene in some districts. “We had got some cash earlier from neighbouring states, but are running out of it now. In the situation does not normalise in a couple of days, it may become difficult to handle customers,” said the official.

Rural areas are the worst affected and farmers are not being paid in full for their produce. This is the season when the rabi crop is being sold and traded at wholesale markets and APMCs.

“With the currency shortage, farmers are not getting dues cleared by traders. Some are forced to sell their produce at lower prices. Others are getting their dues paid into their bank accounts, but with no cash available in the banks or ATMs in rural areas, how do farmers withdraw money?” said Sagar Rabari, president of Gujarat Khedut Samaj.

The state government has acknowledged that banks are short of cash and has taken appropriate action. “We’ve been in touch with the ministry of finance and the Reserve Bank of India. This is a nationwide issue and it is out of the state government’s purview. We’re trying to address cash shortages in various parts of the state. Last week, we sent cash through the RBI to North Gujarat and on Tuesday we sent currency to Surat,” said J N Singh, the chief secretary of Gujarat.

“We’ll also be requesting the RBI to send more cash to Saurashtra, he added. On Tuesday, there was a problem at the market yard in Rajkot. Traders are facing a cash crunch due to short supply of currency notes by the Reserve Bank of India. Marketing yard are especially hit as farmers insist on hard cash for their produce.

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