Demonetisation: People still flocking to ‘Return’ Bank of India

A woman, who tried to exchange her old currency notes on Wednesday but was refused, tried to strip outside the RBI’s regional office in Delhi. She is not alone in venting frustration and despair

Vishwadeepak

The day after police removed a woman who opened her upper garment after Reserve Bank of India’s regional office in Delhi refused to exchange her old currency notes (two of ₹1,000 denomination and four of ₹500), around 20 perplexed people still stood outside the gate grumbling on Thursday afternoon around 1.30 pm. They had all come to exchange their notes but Thursday was declared a holiday on the occasion of 350th birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh.

The woman from Nangloi village on the outskirts of Delhi was whisked away by police women from Parliament Street Police Station. “She did not want us to drop her home, so we left her outside the village,” explained the police women, who collected a few hundred rupees for the woman’s child. The full story can be read here.

Despite the Prime Minister and the RBI’s assurance on November 8, 2016 that people would be able to exchange old notes for new from RBI counters till March 31, 2017, they have gone back on their promise and only NRIs returning to India till June, 2017 have been allowed the privilege. But a steady stream of people still continue to turn up at RBI offices, only to be turned away.

Photo by Kunal Patil/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Kunal Patil/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
People who failed to deposit demonetised notes of ₹500 and ₹1,000 in banks by December 30 turned up at the RBI office in Mumbai on January 4, 2017, only to be told that only those who were able to prove that they were not in the country in November and December were allowed inside to deposit notes

Rajpal Singh (57) from Mundka told National Herald, “There was no notification that the bank would be closed today. Security guards say that the holiday was announced late last evening.” Security guards concurred and one of them added, “Even we were not aware of today’s holiday. We were informed only late last evening at around 6 pm yesterday”.

Md Shoaib claimed to have returned from Saudi Arabia on December 29. Since then, he has visited the RBI office thrice but was turned away each time. “I came on December 31 for the first time but though I have all papers including passport, voter identity card etc with me, RBI officials refused to exchange notes without assigning any reason,” he complained. He has been commuting from Saharanpur to Delhi each time.

Ironically a notice stuck outside the RBI’s Delhi office continued to read on Thursday that “India residents can avail this facility till 31st of March”.

“I was working as a driver in Saudi Arabia. I left my job because my employer was withholding my salary. I came back to India on the night of December 29. I tried to get my money exchanged in a bank near my village on the 30th and 31st but failed. Bank officials there referred me to the RBI’s regional office here. This time I brought along my elder brother also but the bank is closed and we have to return to Saharanpur. I am very disappointed,” he said.

Rajpal Singh claimed he could not exchange his old notes because his wife had put away “some old notes in an almirah” and had forgotten about it.

Ironically a notice stuck outside the RBI’s Delhi office continued to read on Thursday that “India residents can avail this facility till 31st of March”.

Manju had travelled from Panchsheel Park to get ₹2,000 exchanged. She said, “This is not a big amount but I could not find it earlier. It was kept with idols and portraits of gods and goddesses in a corner that serves as a temple in my house. I decided to exchange it as a family member has passed away and we desperately need money.”

Security personnel sympathised with their plight but pleaded helplessness. A lady police inspector at the RBI gate said, “The woman who took off her clothes yesterday was staring at starvation. It was her frustration that led her to strip. She is so poor that we paid for her food and dropped her close to her locality. ”

Lola from Spain, who came India on a tourist visa said, “I have to pay bills but I cannot as I do not have new currency. I could not exchange my old notes earlier because I was unaware of it. RBI or government of India should make proper arrangements for foreign tourists.”

Security personnel sympathised with their plight but pleaded helplessness. A lady police inspector at the gate said, “The woman who took off her clothes yesterday was staring at starvation. It was her frustration that led her to strip. She is so poor that we paid for her food and dropped her close to her locality. ”

A betel leaf seller close by confided that he has been witnessing similar spectacle virtually every day at, he chuckled, the “Return Bank of India”.

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Published: 5 Jan 2017, 1:35 PM