The queues at the designated RBI offices seem to be spilling over as the deadline for exchange of invalid notes by residents who were abroad during the cash ban window draws to a close on Friday. The anxiety is palpable as people are leaving nothing to chance and lining up at the RBI office in the national capital from the night itself so that they get to deposit the currency next day.
The Reserve Bank has allowed Indian citizens who were abroad during the demonetisation period in November-December 2016 to exchange the scrapped notes up to 31 March, and NRIs up to 30 June. This facility is available at RBI offices in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Nagpur only.
Confusion Over Formalities
Those who were unable to exchange until 30 December are now making a last-ditch effort.
Disappointed, Ram Kumar, who works in Dubai, said: “There was no information about Red Channel procedure at the airport, and I did not get the Customs certificate. So, I am being turned away after standing in the queue for six hours.”
He suggested that the RBI should have made arrangements for checking documents of those in the queue so that elimination could be done properly for those not carrying all the papers.
An agitated Kumar said: “This is not black money. It is money that I have earned, so why is the government creating so much fuss?”
Two elderly women Usha, 65, and Sumitra, 80, next to the RBI gate in Delhi, have threatened to commit suicide in case they are unable to get their old notes exchanged.
“I have found Rs 41,500 in clothes. The RBI officials are saying they will only exchange the notes of NRIs,” Usha said.
Ineligible Persons Responsible for Longer Queues: MoS Finance
In a written reply to the Rajya Sabha, Minister of State for Finance Arjun Ram Meghwal had said ineligible persons queuing up at the Reserve Bank were responsible for longer queues.
The minister said the RBI has posted detailed instructions on its website clearly showing the eligibility parameters and other necessary documents required to be tendered for exchange of old notes.
After scrapping the old Rs 500 and 1,000 notes on 8 November, the government had permitted people to deposit the same in banks up to 30 December, 2016.
Meghwal stated that while there is no monetary limit for exchange of currency notes for residents who were abroad during the demonetisation period, there is a cap for NRIs as per FEMA regulations.
‘Paying the Price for Trusting the Govt’
NRIs coming to India are required to come through Red Channel disclosing to the Customs authorities at the airport the amount of now-defunct notes and secure a certificate to be tendered at the RBI at the time of exchange.
A UK-based lady doctor, who requested anonymity, said she came to exchange “just Rs 20,000” but wasn’t allowed as she didn’t follow the required formalities at the airport.
“I am not sure what I will do now,” she said.
For Veer Chauhan, a bouncer from Greater Noida employed by a real estate firm, it is a feeling of “being cheated” by the government over the deadline.
“When the Prime Minister announced banning of the old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, he said we would be allowed to exchange till March 31 at the RBI. I believed in him, but now I am paying the price for it,” Chauhan added.
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