Nearly 3 months after demonetization was set into motion, the daily withdrawal limit of cash from ATMs was raised to 10,000 rupees on Monday, 17th January. However, the weekly withdrawal limit continues to be 24,000 rupees. In the backdrop of the new development, NSoJ visited a host of ATMs to assess the current situation in terms of the availability of cash.
The Reserve Bank of India’s notification reflects a marked improvement on the ground. Of the 21 ATM kiosks we visited, only four had no cash to offer, in stark contrast to the previous scenario where citizens had to make rounds of several ATMs before finally being able to access currency of any denomination at all. However, the higher ceiling has not solved the central issue, for the problem isn’t about big money. “Less is more” seems to be the answer to the woes of customers.
Notes of the denomination of 2000 were predominantly available at the ATM centres at Sahakar Nagar, Church Street and MG Road. An attempt to withdraw hundred rupees at an ICICI ATM received the response: “Rs. 2000 is the suggested amount.” Similar programmed messages asking customers to withdraw cash in the denominations of 500 and 2000 were seen at other centres. The availability of 500 rupee notes, though still lesser than the 2000 denomination, has significantly increased. This should be a relief to people as procuring change for a 500 rupee notes is much easier in making small purchases as compared to the hassles involved when cash transactions had to be made with a high value note like 2000.
100 rupee notes, however, continue to be elusive. Only Axis bank’s ATM branches stored 100 rupee notes. This private bank’s ATM centre at Kodigehalli was out of service for over a month since November 8th, the day when the note ban was announced. Now, however, the branch has the notes of all three denominations in stock.
The serpentine queues have now thinned down to two or three people awaiting their turn outside ATMs. Customers checked with the security guard about the denominations available before deciding whether they must scout for another branch which offers a 500 rupee note, if not those of 100.
The RBI does seem prepared to meet its promise of providing 10,000 rupees in a day with the city’s ATMs replenished with the new purple-hued currency. The average Indian, however, is looking for the now-uncommon notes of 50 and 100 for day-to-day transactions. The country’s banking monitor could consider releasing fresh stacks of small change into circulation.