Demonetisation: Payday queues hit pensioners in Maharashtra

Mumbai: The first salary day on Thursday post-demonetisation proved harrowing for millions in Mumbai and elsewhere in Maharashtra struggling to withdraw cash for their monthly commitments, with senior citizens and pensioners hit worst.

Most ATMs continued to remain cashless as desperate men and women drove from one to another, halting wherever they saw a ‘live’ ATM, albeit with serpentine queues in front of them.

Retired government or private sector employees dependent on their monthly pension, were hit hard as they were compelled to wait in queues, instead of making convenient ATM withdrawals as in the past.

“We are forced to stand in queues from 7 a.m. to ensure we get some cash for our routine expenses. Many are ill and are carrying medicines and water, the infirm are here with walkers or younger relatives,” rued a pensioner waiting in a queue outside a bank in Andheri.

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.

These include payments to private drivers, domestic helpers, baby-sitters, neighbourhood grocery shops, local barbers (not the hi-fi saloons), the corner chaiwalla, roadside vada-pav and food vendors, casual labourers, vehicle washers, who comprise Mumbai’s thriving informal economy.

There are other requirements like the monthly pocket money and other expenses for children, students — train or bus passes which a majority prefer to buy against cash.

“Everything is at a standstill since 22 days after the demonetisation. 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.

Retail trade and commerce has taken a beating of nearly 74 per cent after demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, the gold and jewellery trade has plummeted by 90 per cent, roadside and other eateries are practically empty of customers.

Irate people criticised the manner in which the policy changes were being made daily adding to the burden of woes — like Thursday’s announcement allowing petrol pumps to exchange the scrapped notes till December 2 only, instead of the earlier December 15 deadline.

The replacement with Rs 2,000 notes has not been a boon as there are few ready to accept them due to severe shortage of smaller denomination notes, including the new Rs 500 notes, and existing Rs 100, Rs 50, Rs 20, and Rs 10 notes besides coins.