‘Is there cash at the ATM?’ is a question many still ask Bir Singh, posted outside an automated teller machine on Lodhi Road in the Capital. After weeks of going through the tedium of standing in queues for cash, and often coming away disappointed, many have got used to asking this question before entering an ATM.
“People still think there is a shortage. However, we have refills twice a day on weekdays and once on Sundays,” says Singh. Cash is back in full force in the National Capital Region and lining up to take out a little cash is a thing of the past. If an ATM is empty, it is mostly because of technical glitches, not due to no cash being available.
The situation in other parts of the country is very similar. Prime Minister Narendra Modi shocked the nation on November 8, 2016, by freezing 86 per cent of the cash in the system. He declared the existing Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes paper, albeit preserving their economic value if deposited in banks. The entire nation queued up outside ATMs. Bank branches worked overtime and on holidays as people stood in line to deposit the scrapped notes. Some even died while standing in the queue. Banks had parked Rs 6 lakh crore of their excess money with the central bank, at which point the Reserve Bank (RBI) resorted to extraordinary measures for absorbing the deluge. Neither the government nor the RBI has yet stated how much of money was deposited with banks till the window closed on December 30 for banks and by March with designated branches of the central bank, for no clear reason.
“Cash is available a lot more freely at ATMs now and the queues at banks have come down drastically. The situation has returned to normal but there’s still some odd days when there’s a shortage, especially on weekends,” said Nikhil Infant, who works at Garden City College in Bengaluru as head of social media and digital content.