Long queues at Indian banks to exchange old notes
New Delhi - Long queues formed outside banks in India on Thursday as they reopened after rupee withdrawal.
As the banks reopened for the first time on Thursday since the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes on Tuesday night, many rushed to exchange old notes with loose change and to deposit the rest.
Some banks in the capital New Delhi had received the new 2,000 rupee ($30) bill and a number of ATMs were working again, two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the 500 and 1,000 rupee notes would no longer be legal tender in a blitz against tax evasion and corruption.
Modi's Tuesday evening bombshell prompted a late night rush on cash machines as customers withdrew smaller notes from ATMs before they closed at midnight in preparation for the turnaround.
"The rush was already there when I reached office. Now we are running at full capacity, and there must be 80 odd people inside the bank now," Mukul, a sales executive at Axis bank in Noida told IANS when it opened at 8 a.m. He was standing outside to distribute the withdrawal forms to the customers.
"We were told to come early and our shift has also been extended by two hours. We were anticipating such a crowd," he added.
A Kotak Bank nearby also witnessed a long queue outside, as the customers inside were being attended to.
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"I'm standing in the queue for the last one hour. I had come around 9, I think should've come early," a customer standing in queue, who had come for exchange and deposit both, told IANS.
Most banks deployed at least two of their employees outside the gate to guide the people with forms and other instructions. However, details of the form aside, almost every customer seemed to know the limited amount for exchange, deposit, and everything else concerning the post-ban procedures.
"You can exchange notes worth Rs 4000, while there's no upper cap to the amount you can deposit," a seemingly well informed customer said.
But the rush was not completely without its share of chaos which usually attends such situations, as there were instances of people cutting in lines and others admonishing them for doing so.
"I am not cutting line, my friend is already inside I just need to give him the photostat of his identity card," a man was heard pleading to the guard and people standing in queue.
The government said customers would be able to exchange their old bills for new notes or deposit them in their accounts from Thursday.
However, it was unclear how many banks across the country - particularly in rural areas - had received the new 2,000 note.
Newly designed 500 and 1,000 rupee bills will be rolled out at a later date.
"The country has around 125,000 bank branches and an extensive network of post offices in rural areas, which should be enough. Let the exchange process begin and we will see if more is required," India's Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said Thursday.
Long queues formed outside banks across the country, with some people complaining that banks and post offices, where old notes can also be exchanged, hadn't opened on time.