Insult to injury on payday: Banks decide to open one hour late

Mumbai waits in line from 6 am but banks change work hours without warning. Govt aggravates angst by curbing use of R500 note deadline to December 2

People queue up outside State Bank of India in Fort to withdraw cash. Pic/Bipin Kokate
People queue up outside State Bank of India in Fort to withdraw cash. Pic/Bipin Kokate

The most eagerly awaited day since the demonetisation announcement dawned this morning, with Mumbaikars expecting to withdraw their salaries, but those waiting in line were once again left frustrated as several banks across the city decided to arbitrarily change work hours without notice.

Senior citizens outside an HDFC branch in Versova
Senior citizens outside an HDFC branch in Versova. Pics/Datta Kumbhar

At Colaba, there were lines outside banks since 6 am, with some citizens headed here straight from their night shift.
They were shocked when some banks said they would have to wait until 10.30 am to withdraw through cheq­ues. Some Mumbaikars were, however, fortunate to have employers who allowed them to come in late this morning, giving them time to withdraw their salaries.

Waiting in line for hours
Kamal Kishore Mandal, who works in the construction department of the Navy, had a night shift till 7 am and he arrived straight to Bank of India, Colaba. “They told me to wait until 10.30 am and I have been here since 7 am. I have no option as I have to send money for my niece’s wedding.”

A long queue was seen outside a bank in Ghatkopar on payday today. Pic/ Rane Ashish
A long queue was seen outside a bank in Ghatkopar on payday today. Pic/ Rane Ashish

Arun Ambegaokar, who works at the post office, too, was in line since 6 am post his night shift. “There are so may people I have to pay. I will have to wait to withdraw, no matter when the bank opens,” Arun said.

Santosh Ambre (34) was standing patiently outside the State Bank of India, Colaba, since 8 am. Ambre said, “There are hundreds of things to be taken care of today. Right from the milkman, the newspaper boy, LIC payments and electricity bill, everyone has to be paid. I have to get some money out of my account today itself.”

People queue up outside a bank to deposit and withdraw currency at Turner Road, Bandra, earlier this morning. Pic/Satej Shinde
People queue up outside a bank to deposit and withdraw currency at Turner Road, Bandra, earlier this morning. Pic/Satej Shinde

"I have to reach my Lower Parel office in two hours and have been standing for one hour," said Dev Parmar (31), who was waiting at the State Bank of India, SV Road, Goregaon branch.

Senior citizens, too, had to queue up today to withdraw from their pension accounts. Laxman Sabhaji Chakri, who was with the Indian Army, joined the Maharashtra police post retirement. He gets a pension of R10,000. He was at SBI’s Santacruz branch and had to wait 20 minutes before he could get his money. He was disappointed at getting it all in R2,000 notes.

Ashish Prajapati, a businessman, outside ICICI Bank, said, "I have just had surgery and was back to work last week. Today, I have to stand in line for hours just to withdraw cash and pay my staff."

A man fills a form to deposit his salary cheque at Seawoods. Pic /Sneha Kharabe
A man fills a form to deposit his salary cheque at Seawoods. Pic /Sneha Kharabe

Pooja Pande, an Andheri resident, said she had to pay her maids and milkman today. "It is the first of the month and I have to pay my maids and other people, but after standing in line for hours, I will be able to withdraw only Rs 5,000."

Changed timings
Many banks in Thane changed their timings and also imposed several restrictions that led to further confusion among citizens. Some banks were disbursing only R2,000 notes and making things difficult for people withdrawing money.

Shashank Sawant, 30-year-old resident of Bhandup, who was at the HDFC branch in Naupada, Thane, at 9 am to withdraw his salary, had to wait a long while before the bank started disbursing money against cheques. Fortunately, Sawant, a civil engineer with a private company, was allowed to come in late to work.

"I have to withdraw Rs 10,000 from my salary account since other banks in Bhan­dup were refusing to give me the amount I want. Thankfully, my office has allowed us to come in late. I need the money to pay my rent and clear small debts," said Sawant.

An employee of Tata Group said, he, too, had been allowed to come in late today. "I have to withdraw my salary to pay my rent and tuition fees for my children. I came at 9 am,” said Amrita Shah, another resident of Thane.

But many banks like Cosmo and Bank of Baroda decided to change their working hours for the day. Bank of Baroda had posted a notice stating that only account holders could withdraw or deposit money.

“We were forced to change the timings to 10.30 am because our staff had to prepare themselves to tackle the big rush for withdrawals today,” said an official with Bank of Baroda, Thane.

Leave cancelled
Some banks had even cancelled leave of employees in order to tackle the withdrawal rush. “Since today is salary day, we decided to cancel everyone’s leave as the rush is expected to be high today," said Bank of Baroda chief manager Prashant Upadhyay.

Some banks have launched a token system and first priority has been given to companies to withdraw and pay off employees’ salaries.

"We have devised a strategy to tackle the huge inflow of customers who will visit the branches this week. Extra cash counters will be set up to cater to the large demand and tokens will be dispensed to customers to ensure everyone is served,” said Manoj Kare, Chief Manager, Resource Planning, Bank of Maharashtra.

"Demand from companies for our prepaid card solutions has gone up significantly. These cards are a convenient alternative to salary payments in cash as they can be used to make purchases at stores and websites. We are also deploying Point-of-Sale (POS) machines at various office premises to facilitate cash withdrawal by their employees," said a spokesperson from ICICI Bank.

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