SBI Chief Arundhati Bhattacharya On ATMs Running Dry And The 100-Rupee Note Problem

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SBI chief said number of people visiting banks to swap/withdraw currency notes is decreasing


New Delhi:  If it's hurting to stand in those long lines at banks, waiting for cash, exhale a little. Arundhati Bhattacharya, the head of the State Bank of India or SBI, says that though it may not seem like it, the number of people visiting banks is decreasing.

SBI is the country's largest lender.

"I think whatever concerns people had are abating by the day. On Sunday, we did 10 per cent less transactions than Saturday," she told NDTV last evening. "In southern states, we have done 25 per cent less transactions today (Monday) than we did on Sunday. So obviously the number of people who are coming to the counters is reducing.

Exactly a week ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the shock announcement that four hours later, Rs 500 and 1,000 notes would be illegal for transactions, and that people have till the end of the year to deposit them; for now, the PM said, the notes can be exchanged for a limited amount of the new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 notes which have enhanced security features that make them easier to track and harder to copy.  

The unprecedented crowding at banks has been exacerbated by ATMs that either don't work, because they are still being recalibrated to dispense the new notes which need differently-sized trays,  or run out of cash quickly, leaving customers in despair.

The first lot of Rs 2,000 notes were made available in some ATMs yesterday.  Till the new notes are more easily available, it is the old Rs 100 note that is needed to fill the gap - and there just isn't enough of it.  

"Most of our ATMs are now up and running. Though, we are having a problem of (ATMs) drying up quickly because we are still loading them with only 100-rupee notes and obviously there is still a physical limitation to the number of 100-rupee notes we can put in at a point of time,"

Ms Bhattacharya explained. "But having said that, we have completed the backend calibration of both 500 and 2,000 rupee new notes. We have already started dispensing 2,000-rupee notes in a few ATMs today, and the recalibration on the front-end is going on at full speed. So to that extent we will very soon be able to bring back much of the normality in ATM transactions."


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