New Delhi: Currency crunch seen in many parts of the country in past few days showed signs of easing on Thursday with 86 per cent of ATMs coming online, cash being transported to deficit areas and government presses working overtime to print new notes, officials said.
India's largest bank SBI Chairman Rajnish Kumar said the problem will be resolved by Friday. "It is not a uniform cash crunch problem. It is there in geographies like Telangana and Bihar. We are hoping that the problem will be resolved by tomorrow because cash is in transition and it is reaching these states by today evening," SBI's Kumar told reporters here.
Meanwhile, government officials said that with special arrangements being made to transport cash to areas that during the last three days faced an "unusual spurt in demand", 86 per cent of the 2.2 lakh ATMs were operational, dispensing cash. This was higher than 80 per cent operational ATMs on Wednesday and just 60 per cent working ATMs on Tuesday.
The shortage has been blamed on the inadequate availability of Rs 2,000 currency notes, which sources in the government said could be because of hoarding ahead of elections. Also, ATM cassettes had not been configured to dispense smaller sized Rs 200 notes.
An official said the government has ramped up printing of currency notes and is operating all the four presses 24x7. The presses this week have been minting Rs 500 and Rs 200 notes without a break to meet an estimated Rs 70,000 crore of currency shortfall in the country.
On an average, the four presses of Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India Limited (SPMCIL) operate for 18-19 hours daily with a 3-4 hour break. But since the time ATMs ran dry, the presses are operating 24X7, the official said.
Such overtime printing was last seen post demonetisation when the printing of new Rs 2,000 notes was fast-tracked to meet the liquidity shortage in the market.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had on Tuesday stated that there is sufficient cash in its vaults and currency chests. "Nevertheless, printing of the notes has been ramped up in all the 4 note presses."
Holding accountable those who are hoarding cash, Kumar said the money should be recycled, meaning that if people withdraw money from the bank and the money needs to be deposited back as well.
"If we (people) hold everything, then whatever supply we (banks) do, it will be insufficient for the country. So it is important that the currency is also recycled," he said.
Commenting on the issue, Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha said the hype around currency shortage has been created to mislead the nation.
"I feel that it is unnecessary hype which has been created. Finance Secretary and RBI have said that there is no cash crunch in 80 per cent of the ATMs and there is enough cash available in RBI chest also. It is a political conspiracy to mislead the nation. People should remain cautious about such conspiracies," he said.
Meanwhile, All-India Banks Employees Association (AIBEA) has threatened to launch an agitation saying bank staff was facing public anger due to the cash crunch. It blamed the government and the RBI for the situation.
(With PTI inputs)