Chaotic queues got longer on Wednesday as people in large numbers scrambled for money after monthly salaries got credited in bank accounts -- the first since the high value currency was scrapped, causing an unprecedented cash deficiency across India.
Most private companies in India credit salaries to their employees on the last day of a month even as labour laws allow wages to be disbursed on any day before the 10th of the next month.
As soon as the salaries were credited, millions of employees began queuing up outside banks and ATMs across the country to withdraw cash to meet their monthly needs and pay their domestic helps, drivers and clear their monthly grocery and other bills.
Since the supply of notes from currency chests has failed to keep pace with the demand for cash after 86 per cent of currency in circulation was declared illegal on November 8, the chaos worsened on the payday as more households needed cash than earlier.
Several banks ran out of cash within hours of opening. Some bank officials complained that they were getting cash much below what they need.
Bankers said they were rationing withdrawals so that more customers were catered to.
People were seen in bigger numbers waiting to withdraw money. Many were annoyed by the rush and the arbitrary withdrawal limits set by banks. And the situation could get worse in the coming days as more number of people will receive salaries.
"I have to pay my maid and grocery bills in cash. I somehow managed to convince my landlord to accept the rent in cheque but I am bound to visit the bank for other payments," said Vishakha Sharma from west Delhi.
The 27-year-old waited outside a bank for two hours. "It is so humiliating that we have to stand in long queues and beg for our own money."
An MNC employee, Yogesh Yadav, said he had come to withdraw Rs 24,000 from his bank account but was given only Rs 10,000. "It's the end of the month and I am supposed to pay bills. How will I manage?" Yadav asked.
A resident of Krishna Nagar in Delhi, Rahul Chauhan got his salary credited on Tuesday but could not withdraw even after standing in a queue at 3 a.m. on Wednesday.
"By the time my chance to enter the bank came, it ran out of cash."
Scenes in Kolkata, like the rest of India, played out no differently. In apprehension of a mad rush, people started queuing up outside banks and ATMs since morning.
"I am in the queue since 8.30 am.," said Sougata Mitra, an employee of a private firm outside a Bank of India branch in central Kolkata.
It was 10.45 am when IANS caught up with Mitra, and already 50-60 customers had lined up.
The first salary day after demonetization proved haranguing for the maximum city Mumbai where most ATMs ran dry. Desperate men and women drove from one place to another, halting wherever they saw an ATM alive, albeit with long queues.
Though many Mumbaikars have shifted to making certain payments online or by debit/credit cards, there are many bills which need to be paid in cash. Many feared that the situation could worsen on Thursday.
"Everything has come to a standstill. Worse, many online payments systems are jammed due to the sudden heavy traffic and payments are pending," fumed a pharmaceutical consultant P. Venkataraman from Kandivali, a Mumbai suburb.