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EAST DELHI — India’s ban on its most popular forms of cash has led to empty ATMs in many locations – and long lines in others.
CNBC writer Neelabh Chaturvedi had to stand in line for 98 minutes just to get cash from a machine on Dec. 1.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Nov. 8 declared that the two largest bills in circulation — the 500 and 1,000 rupee notes — were no longer legal tender. A full 86 percent of the cash in India, the world’s second largest, was suddenly worthless.
The first two ATMS Chaturvedi went to in East Delhi were not even working. The third machine was working but there was a line of 35 people because it was the only place in the neighborhood to get cash.
“One person I spoke to had spent the entire day trying to get cash to meet expenses,” she wrote. “A labourer for a company setting up the trackworks for an extension of the Delhi Metro, he told me he first went to a bank branch to deposit cash but left in frustration after a couple of hours of fruitless waiting. He then went to an ATM, where he lined up for just over an hour, only to find that cash ran out when he was third in line to get 2,000 rupees. This was his third stop. Another waited anxiously only to find out when he reached the ATM that his card had been locked.”
There is a daily of limit of 2,500 rupees ($73.37) for withdrawals.
Modi’s move was designed to curb tax evasion and force India to move to a cashless society. Most Indians still pay the old-fashioned way. The prime minister is trying to stop that through a policy called demonetization, in which cash is suddenly declared worthless.
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