New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that it will take two-three weeks to recalibrate the ATMs across the country for the new notes. "It will be a slow process. Such a big cash replacement cannot happen in a mechanical way overnight," he said.
Mr Jaitley was addressing the media after an emergency meet with bank heads in New Delhi.
During the address, he said around Rs 2 lakh crore has been deposited till 12.15 pm on Saturday in banks across the country, following the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.
"The largest banker in the country State Bank of India (SBI) saw deposits of Rs 47,868 crore till Saturday afternoon," Mr Jaitley said while briefing the media here.
He said SBI's deposits are around 20 per cent of the total deposits in all the banks in the country.
Giving an indication of the process being long-drawn before things return to normal, he said: "It is a massive operation which has just started. How big will it become, it can be estimated only on basis of these illustrative figures."
He said that Rs 14 lakh crore is in circulation in the economy in high denomination notes, though it remains to be seen how much of it comes back into the banking system.
The Finance Minister said that it was to maintain secrecy that the two lakh ATM machines of the country were not recalibrated in advance.
Mr Jaitley also said that despite allegations by opposition parties that there was a spike in bank deposits prior to the demonetisation announcement, no such spike has been seen in any month, except September 2016.
"That month the increase was because of money released on account of the Seventh Pay Commission payments," he said, adding that therefore there was no substance in the allegations that information about demonetisation was leaked.
Thanking bank employees for not taking any days off, Mr Jaitley said the number of customers the banks are servicing can be estimated from the fact that SBI alone has done 2.28 crore transactions in less than three days.
"In total if you multiply it by four to five times, it can be estimated how many people banks are servicing," he said.
He reassured people that there is sufficient time till December 30 for people to deposit the demonetised notes.
"We are constantly monitoring the cash crunch prevailing. Finance Ministry is constantly in contact with the RBI over the issue. In the short run there may be some disruptions, but in the long run it is good for the economy," he said.
Mr Jaitley said that there will be no exemptions to any section of the society on the basis of pleas like large traders and wholesalers need huge amounts of cash for transactions.
"We will not tolerate any illegal cash or bullion transactions. There will be no exemptions to any section of the society. I get hundreds of requests everyday from various sectors for exemption, like from traders, NGOs, etc," he said.
He once again denied the rumours about digital lockers and chips being fitted in the new notes.