Mumbai/Hyderabad: The scramble for cash spawned by demonetisation a week ago assumed frantic proportions on Tuesday as people descended outside banks in droves in the wee hours fearing ATMs may run dry and another death of an elderly man standing in queue being reported from Hyderabad.
Tens of thousands of people lined up hours before banks opened in towns and cities across the country to exchange or deposit or withdraw money, a day after a public holiday in several states, even as the grim situation showed no signs of abating.
Small businesses also continued to be hit hard with lack of patrons who were scurrying for small change. Laxman Rao, a retired government employee who came alone to Marredpally branch of a state-run bank in Hyderabad to deposit Rs150,000, collapsed at the bank's entrance.
"He collapsed on the bank's entrance steps and the policemen on duty immediately shifted him to a nearby hospital where doctors declared him brought dead," Deputy Commissioner of Police (North Zone) B. Sumathi told PTI. "He died of heart-ailment...He had once earlier suffered a heart-attack and had been operated upon," the DCP said based on preliminary investigation. He was native of Anantapur district in Andhra Pradesh.
As banks opened after a day's break, Mumbai and suburbs witnessed greater scramble for cash with people making a beeline before banks and ATMs to exchange old currency notes and withdraw cash for essential expenses.
The BJP-led government in Maharashtra decided to set up a cabinet sub-committee to recommend further measures to mitigate the hardships of the people due to demonetisation.
"The cabinet meeting reviewed the situation arising out of the Centre's move to scrap Rs500 and Rs1,000 currency notes," an official in the Chief Minister's office said.
"My wife is admitted in Bethany hospital of Thane. Hospital management is not accepting cheque and insisting only on pay orders. Even medical stores are not accepting Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes. I fail to understand what to do? These are the worst days of our life," said Om Prakash Joshi while recounting his ordeal since last week.
To the relief of some customers, the ATMs were found to be working better as compared to previous days. In the wake of the problems faced by citizens while exchanging demonetised currency, Maharashtra Police also set up grievance cells in all district and commissionerates.
Frustration writ large on their faces, people continued to throng banks and ATMs desperate to exchange or deposit demonetised Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes across Tamil Nadu even as there was no let up in the milling crowds a week after withdrawal of the currency.
The famous Koyambedu vegetable market, which receives almost 500 truckloads of vegetables from various southern states every day, wore a deserted look due to lack of patronage from customers and small retailers. Activists of CPI and DYFI took out separate marches to the RBI office in Thiruvananthapuram protesting against demonetisation of high-value currencies, which they alleged was causing hardship to people.
In Delhi, people in large numbers started queueing up outside ATMs and banks from early morning but with limited success as many cash vending machines were running dry. Police also had to threaten an unruly crowd outside Reserve Bank of India with lathis.