Nagpur: The Reserve Bank of India has finally shut its doors for exchanging banned currency notes as the March 31 deadline ended on Friday. After three gruelling months of handling hundreds of agitated persons, the RBI office at Nagpur is estimated to have accepted banned notes from 5,500 to 6,000 eligible individuals. At the same time, at least 20,000 people have been turned back.
After December 30, the government opened a special window at RBI to deposit the scrapped currency, for those travelling abroad from November 9 to December end as well as NRIs with Indian passport. Deadline for the former ended on Friday and NRIs can come up to June 30.
Nearly 1,500 went to the RBI on Friday of which only around 125 eligible people were let in. The crowd had begun swelling since last three days. People were seen hoping against hope to get their money exchanged. The security personnel were on their toes. As a cop with an AK-47 slung on his back explained with a smile that not everyone could get an entry, people vent their anger on him.
“What do we do with the notes now?” came a voice from the crowd. “From today, it’s going to be an offence to posses old notes. We can’t burn them too; money is sacred for us. And why should one throw away hard earned money?” said one of them.
As the Supreme Court hearing on the note ban case is due on April 11, many were in a fix whether to keep or destroy their notes.
Those smart like Shyam Saude were looking for an NRI or a traveller abroad to take their cash along and get it deposited in the latter’s name. “Those in the RBI have advised us to do so,” said those accompanying him.
NRIs were not happy too. A group which had returned from the US could not deposit notes as it did not have the customs declaration. “The cash has to be declared before the customs at the time of reaching India. If it was such an important rule, customs officials should have insisted on declaration on landing. None did even point it out,” said an NRI coming from US.
Reksha Vishindasani said her sister had come down from UAE to exchange her money, but the customs authorities did not point out that the cash had to be declared. She missed and now the RBI has rejected her case.
Besides, confusion also prevailed due to messages on social media that the criterion had been relaxed. Gopal Mavde from Amravati said though he was aware about the rules, he saw a television report that even others can exchange notes for the last three days.
According to estimates gathered talking to sources monitoring the events, soon after the RBI window was opened in January, there was a huge rush at the RBI gates. On an average, 70-80 of the total persons may have been NRIs.
So considering that the RBI here may have worked for 26 days in a month making it 78 from January to March, nearly 5500-6500 NRIs or travellers abroad could deposit their old notes. At the same time, nearly 400 people were not eligible during the period. The numbers swelled to at least 900-1,000 a day in the last week, said sources.
The amounts ranged from Rs1,000 to even Rs15 lakh. There was a single case of Rs15 lakh being deposited by a person, who had been abroad during the note ban time. However, largely moderate amounts were brought by the people, said sources. NRIs cannot deposit more than Rs25,000.
Jahangir Alam, an NRI working in Oman, drove down from Bilaspur with Rs6.5 lakh. He flew back to Oman a month after his marriage in 2015 and the cash gifts received during the wedding were kept in a locker. Accordingly, he was rejected as an NRI had to declare the cash at the time of landing.
Aditya Vaidya came with Rs10,000 on behalf of his friend in merchant navy, who is now sailing in the high seas. The rules, however, call for the person concerned to be present physically.
People continued to throng the RBI even as the time ended at 3;45 requesting the gurds to let them in.