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29 Dec 2016

50 days on, cash chaos & long queues continue across nation

Mahua Venkatesh and Suchetana Ray, HT, 28 December, NEW DELHI: The situation is far from normal with people still trying to cope with uncertainty and confusion as the demonetisation exercise entered its 50th day on Wednesday.
The last day for depositing defunct banknotes is just a couple of days away, and people hoped that restrictions and withdrawal limits would be lifted once the scheme closes.
Limits on cash withdrawal are likely to continue for a while and banks want the situation to nor mali se before lifting the restrictions. Cash shortage continues and queues at banks and ATM kiosks are yet to disappear. Sources said only about 60% of 200,000 ATMs in the country are working.
“Though the situation has improved, the cash crunch will continue for some more time ... it is expected to normalise in the second half of January,” said Soumya Kanti Ghosh, the chief economic adviser of the State Bank of India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who took the nation by surprise when he announced withdrawal of high denomination notes of ` 500 and `1000 on November 8, had sought 50 days for the situation to ease out.
Bankers expect chaos in the coming payday as well.
In the past 50 days, rules linked to demonetisation have been changed as many as 62 times by the finance ministry and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). This not only led to confusion but attracted taunts from the Opposition and on social media.
“There is need to maintain stability and you cannot keep changing rules every now and then ... this leads to erosion of faith in the system and if the situation is not corrected at the earliest, things can go out of hand ,” said a senior public sector bank official who refused to be identified.
Cash withdrawal limits have not been raised or withdrawn. While `15 lakh crore has been sucked out of the system, only about `6.5 lakh crore has come in, leading to a demand-supply mismatch.

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