The currency crisis appeared to have started impacting small businesses like roadside restaurants as banks struggled to dispense enough valid notes for the seventh day in a row amid long-winding queues.
With 86% of the currency taken away with the withdrawal of old Rs 500 and 1000 notes, small businesses – from vegetable vendors to dhabas and small kirana stores – that use cash as mode of transaction were the worst hit.
A bulk of daily labourers were rendered jobless as construction and other activities came to a standstill in view of cement, sand and other supplies not coming in.
Truckers too were reportedly stranded on highways as drivers ran out of valid currency notes, effecting movement of goods in several parts of the country.
Vegetable and fruit wholesale markets as well as foodgrain mandis in many parts also reported very low business due to shortage of cash.
Even big hotels and malls reported a drop in footfall as out-of-cash public decided to skip them.
As Rajya Sabha debated the demonetisation move, the government worked overtime to fix the mess by trying to increase supply and getting as many ATMs calibrated to dispensing new currency notes. But it may not be before one week that half of the over 2 lakh cash vending ATMs to be online.
Seeking immediate withdrawal of demonetisation exercise, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee met President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday along with leaders of National Conference, AAP and NDA ally Shiv Sena and submitted a memorandum voicing serious concern over the crisis arising out of ban on Rs 1000 and Rs 500 currency notes.
At the same time, united opposition mounted an assault on the government over demonetisation, saying it had led to “economic anarchy” in the country and alleged selective leak of the information before the announcement which should be probed by a Joint Parliamentary Committee.
Meanwhile, to stop repeat money exchangers thronging banks with invalid currency notes, banks have started applying indelible ink mark on the right hand index finger of customers in the select metro cities.
SBI and few other banks in New Delhi have started using indelible ink. As per the government statement, 11 branches of SBI are using the method to weed out customers queueing up again and again to exchange invalid currency notes.
Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das said use of indelible ink has also started in Mumbai and Kolkata.
To spread in other parts of the country, it is being airlifted to all regions, he said.
Cash-strapped people were seen waiting in frustration as most of the cash dispensing machines ran out of cash within hours after being stocked, while thousands of ATMs are still not functional. Adding to the customer woes, there have been reports of bank servers facing technical glitches.
The Centre on November 8 had banned the use of old 500 and 1,000 rupee banknotes in a bid to curb black money and sources of terror funding.
Even ATMs at the Finance Ministry and Parliament House witnessed long queues with average waiting time of an hour.
According to government official, it will take one more week to recalibrate half of two lakh ATMs to dispense the new 500 and 2,000 rupee notes.
The government has stepped up printing of new 500 rupee notes so that it can be made available to people, the official said.
Currently, the ATM withdrawal limit from savings bank accounts stands at Rs 2,500 a day. The government is now focusing on making cash available on offsite ATMs as well.
(With inputs from PTI)