Muscat: Indians in Oman are postponing plans to travel home as the currency crisis in their home country has led to a cash crunch.
“We don’t want to go to India until the cash crunch triggered by currnecy scrapping eases. We have been seeing on television long queues at banks and ATMs due to new cash withdrawal limits set by the government. Things can be very difficult for us if we go for a short holiday,” Daniel B, an Indian resident in Muscat, said.
“Indian schools (in Oman) are going to close for Christmas vacation. However, I don’t think it would be appropriate to go to India at this time as we would be left struggling without cash. Even though we can deposit money in our accounts, it would be quite hard to withdraw it,” Daniel said.
The Indian government, in a sudden move on November 8, 2016, scrapped high-denomination notes of Rs500 (OMR 2.8) and Rs1,000 (OMR 5.7).
It led to chaos and even ten days after the decision, there are long queues outside banks and ATMs. The demonetised notes accounted for 86 per cent of all cash in the economy.
Last Friday, reversing its initial move of enhancing the over-the-counter exchange limit for old Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes, the government slashed it to Rs2,000 per person from Rs4,500, effective Friday itself.
Bino PP, another Indian in Muscat, said he, too, has postponed his travel plans. “I wanted to go home for Christmas, but don’t want to now because of the cash crunch,” Bino said.
India’s Supreme Court came down hard on the government on Friday for not doing enough to ease the cash crunch in the country, warning that the situation was serious and people were so anxious that there could even be riots. Philip Koshy, general manager at Modern Exchange, said though they are offering a real time bank account credit facility, many Indian banks are failing to disperse the money because of shortage of cash.
Sushil Banerjee, an Indian expatriate, had sent OMR600 to his parents about seven days ago.
“However, till date, they could manage to withdraw only OMR200 as the banks in West Bengal are short of cash,” Banerjee lamented.
Exchange officials in Oman said they have no role to play in this situation.
“We are remitting money. In fact, the money is being credited to their account either on the same day or the next. However, some customers are indeed facing delays in withdrawing the money because of the shortage of cash in the Indian banks,” admitted another exchange house.
“The problem is rather acute for those visiting for a short time as they are legally allowed to carry only Rs25,000 to India. After reaching India, they are finding it hard to withdraw money from the banks,” the official said.
Bank transfer is not an option now as the Indian banks are not permitting anyone to withdraw more than Rs4,500 a day. “Some rural banks don’t have even that amount,” Indian expats claimed.
Deepak Chandra, Chief Manager, Mustafa Sultan Exchange, Ruwi Branch, said they are still waiting for further instructions.
“We are in touch with our head office about what to do next but we are not accepting any Rs500 or Rs1,000 rupee notes,” he added.