ATM money scarcity in pockets, many giving out solely Rs 2,000 notes

KOLKATA: Scenes reminiscent of played out in some pockets of the city on Wednesday with “No Cash” signs hanging outside several even as queues of anxious citizens built up in front of others.
The current cash shortage was not a patch on the scene that followed the government’s decision to scrap old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in November 2016, but bank officials conceded they were stretching their limits to replenish the ATMs.

Around 3pm, a “No Cash” sign was hung outside a Bank of India’s ATM on Central Avenue. The security guard there said he was not sure when the notes would be replenished. “In the morning, the ATM dispensed only Rs-500 notes,” the guard said. A few metres away, at the State Bank of India ATM on Maulana Shaukat Ali Street, a sign was found saying, the machine will dispense Rs-2,000 notes. “Only Rs 2,000 notes have been coming out of the machine since Sunday,” said the guard there.

In fact, with only Rs 2,000 notes being available at many ATMs, customers waiting in queues said this was similar to what had happened after demonetisation; even then, initially only the new Rs 2,000 notes came out of ATMs, putting all in much trouble. “An overall uncertainty reigned those days and that seems to be returning. There are either Rs 2,000 notes in some ATMs or no money at all. We hope the crisis will be mitigated before it gets acute,” said Pratap Mukherjee, who was disappointed on finding the SBI ATM at Calcutta University branch shut. The banks are reportedly reorienting the strategy under which Rs 500 notes will be available at ATMs only, while Rs 2,000 will be dispensed from bank branches.

Bank officials, however, said the cash situation was still almost normal in the city and rest of the state. “There is no cash problem in Kolkata,” chief general manager of SBI (Bengal circle) Partha Pratim Sengupta said. A top Allahabad Bank official claimed the scene in Kolkata was much better than other cities at this juncture. “It will be completely normal in the next three-four days,” he added.

There are 11,800 ATMs in Bengal, of which 3,000 are in Kolkata. SBI and HDFC Bank officials said around 85% ATMs in Kolkata dispensed cash on Wednesday noon. Even on the second day of the shortage, Kolkata remained among the top cities when it came to cash dispensation. Chandigarh and Thiruvananthapuram were ahead of it, while Hyderabad, Bhubaneswar and Patna remained at the bottom of the rung. The average outgo from SBI ATMs in the city is around Rs 6-7 lakh, while that of most other banks is Rs 3-4 lakh.

Anand Kumar Bajaj, founder, Nearby Technologies, pointed out there had been a spurt in non-cash payment. “Our platform supported by YES BANK and NPCI has seen a surge in transaction volumes of Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AEPS) and on a daily basis we are enabling about Rs 20 crore of AEPS service. This has picked up in the last week,” he said.

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