Year After Notes Ban, Bank Workers Who Put In Long Hours Have These Regrets

The biggest demonetisation regrets have stayed with those bank officials who saw bank queue death's under their watch, like Brijendra Prasad, the manager at a cooperative bank in eastern UP's Azamgarh.

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Year After Notes Ban, Bank Workers Who Put In Long Hours Have These Regrets

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"At the start of notebandi, we used to reach home by midnight," said a bank official

Varanasi:  Exactly a year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's notes ban announcement, at the Union Bank of India in Jayapur - PM Modi's adopted village in his Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi - all seems well. 

When NDTV visited the same bank on November 13 last year, we found a long line of slippers filling the queues alongside cash-strapped men and women outside this bank. At least 100 pairs of slippers, some with chits on top of them with name of their owners, were seen in queue along with about 50 men and women waiting to exchange and withdraw their money after the government in a surprise announcement scrapped Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. 

"It was a very tough time," says 30-year-old cashier Sudhir Kumar inside the bank, attending a few customers at hand. Mr Kumar, originally from Varanasi city, some 30 kilometres away, was at the epicenter of dealing with the surging crowds right after demonetization. Long hours, angry people, a crippling cash shortage - Mr Kumar says he dealt with it all, but has some complaints. 

"All the staff worked overtime. At the start of notebandi, we used to reach home by midnight. We were given an entire excel sheet telling us how much overtime we would get. I though I would get some money and I would buy an iPhone. My total amount was Rs 30,000 but I got only Rs 8,000. This was very unsatisfactory and it did not recognize my work," says Mr Kumar. 

Bank officials here claim much success from the notes ban drive. The bank added 1,500 accounts between November 2016 and this year, almost double the previous year's number. 90 per cent of these new accounts also had ATM cards. The bigger success, according to the bank - almost doubling its cumulative savings bank deposits within the last year , from Rs 4 crore to 7 crore, a sign that more people are putting money into their accounts. 

Elsewhere in Uttar Pradesh though, not everything is back on track. At the State Bank of India's main branch in western UP's Firozabad town, which has a huge bangle making industry, bank manager Rajeev Gautam says the bank's daily cash requirement is a whopping Rs 12 crore - this money also goes to other bank branches. It is not being met, Mr Gautam says, adding, "There is a cash shortage with the RBI. There is something called a surplus. That is not being ensured. The RBI is not being able to give us the cash we require."

But the biggest demonetisation regrets have stayed with those bank officials who saw bank queue death's under their watch, like Brijendra Prasad, the manager at a cooperative bank in eastern UP's Azamgarh, where 77-year-old retired school teacher Istiaq Ahmed died in a queue eight days after the demonetisation announcement - ironically, his family is yet to get compensation - despite a written testimony from the manager.

"I felt very bad. I used to meet him in the bank often. He was in the queue, I could not spot him that day. I wish he had come directly to me, I would have helped him and given him money out of turn," says Mr Prasad. 

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