Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh: The cash crunch in the aftermath of the government's ban on Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes is bad enough in metros with block-long queues. But how bad is it in the small towns of India? Deep in eastern Uttar Pradesh, in Vindhyachal and Mirzapur, NDTV did a reality check. And the results were staggering.
The journey started at 9 am, outside the ICICI bank ATM in the temple town of Vindhyachal.
Rohit Singh, a 22-year-old pilgrim, said he had already tried three ATM cards. None worked. The ATM is out of cash.
The locals say it's hasn't worked for over a week now. "I have just a little cash and no one in this town seems to use any swipe machines," he said, heading off to another ATM to check.
He may as well have not scouted. Of the seven ATMs in Vindhyachal, not one was working this morning.
In adjoining Mirzapur, a carpet manufacturing hub alongwith neighbouring Bhadohi, the trend continued. Along the major intersections of the town, all ATMs had either their shutters down or were open but not working.
Finally, after visiting 32 ATMs, we reached the Indian bank ATM at the Arkanya road, a commercial hub. Here, the only ATM we found working in the city so far, a crowd of hundreds awaited their turn. For an individual at the end of the queue, the wait was well over 2 hours.
"This is the only ATM that's working. Even this has seen money after two or three days. Tell me, what do we do?" asked Arif Khan, a college student.
The 43rd ATM we visited was an Indicash ATM, where on a normal day, one can use any card for free withdrawals.
Inside, the machine stood garlanded, apparently a supplication to produce some cash. As we started shooting, someone barged in, realised we are journalists, and murmured, "Oh I thought you were loading cash," before rushing out again.
The final ATM we visited was the State Bank of India ATM at the Mirzapur railway station. The ATM was shut. It was our 53rd ATM of the day. Of these, only one was working.