NEW DELHI – The announcement by Indian government to stop Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes as a legal tender from November 8, in an attempt to uncover billions of dollars in undeclared wealth came as a big shock to their citizens.

People rushed to swap the banned notes for new bills issued by the Reserve Bank of India. But the country’s banks were overwhelmed by the demands and stayed open over the weekend in an attempt to process the transactions.

There were reports of clashes between people who had queued up to exchange or deposit their old and now obsolete 500 and 1000 rupee notes and bank officials over the long wait and banks falling short of cash. The country of 1.3 billion has about 200,000 ATMs and roughly half are broken.

The endless wait to get new notes took its toll on people waiting for hours in serpentine queues and there were reports of elderly people falling sick and some even collapsing. Acknowledging the hardship faced by the elderly, the government has extended the exchanging dates till December 30.

The new notes of Rs.500 and Rs. 2,000 are shorter and narrower than the older bills that require recalibrated ATMs, which will take at least two weeks to be implemented nationwide.

“The government’s decision is good, but they haven’t backed it up with a plan of action.” said Sunil Chadha, 54, who was waiting in line at an ATM in New Delhi.

Many slammed Modi, and criticised his Japan visit while ordinary people suffered at home.
As per Modi, he said he would pursue the war against corruption and tax defaulters and added he is aware of his citizen’s problems as the transition to the new series of bank notes, and he is confident that they would stand by the decision as part of the war on corruption and to rid India of endemic poverty.

Modi said, since his government came to power in 2014, India has unearthed 1.25 trillion rupees ($18.51 billion) of black money, ‘the term widely used to describe transactions that take place outside formal channels’ including 670 billion rupees in the recent income disclosure scheme.

– Bandana Singh, Correspondent (Asia: South)

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