Since the weekend, people across the metro cities thronged brand outlets and petrol pumps to make purchases using the Rs 2,000 note.
With the memory of the 2016 demonetisation still afresh, people want to avoid the hassle of queuing up at banks or invite scrutiny from the tax department by depositing large sums of money.
Even though the window to exchange the notes is till September 30, 2023, people have already started to offload the higher denomination currency.
Bonanza for some shops, pain for others
Several Indian shops are eagerly accepting the note, using it as an opportunity to increase sales.
“A lot of people are using 2,000-rupee notes to pay for mangoes since Saturday,” said Mohammad Azhar, 30, a mango seller near the Crawford Market area in Mumbai.
“On a daily basis, I get 8-10 notes now. I accept it. I have no option, it’s my business. I will deposit everything at once before Sept. 30. There is no fear since the note is valid.”
Michael Martis, store manager at a Rado store in a mall in central Mumbai, said his store had seen a 60%-70% increase in 2000-rupee notes since the withdrawal was announced.
“That has increased our watch sales to 3-4 pieces per day from 1-2 previously,” said Martis.
Food-delivery firm Zomato said on its Twitter account on Monday that 72% of the ‘cash on delivery’ orders were paid in Rs 2,000 notes since Friday.
However, not all shop-owners were as receptive of the notes.
“I don’t accept; I won’t accept. I don’t want to get into the trouble of depositing it with my bank,” said a restaurant owner in South Mumbai.
At the crowded Gandhi Nagar Market in Delhi – the largest readymade garment hub of the city – there has been a huge rush of people trying to dispose of Rs 2,000 notes in their possession.
But some shopkeepers here were not eager to accept the notes.
Vimal Jain, president of shopkeepers’ union, said: “People have been making a beeline to get rid of Rs 2,000 notes in the last two days. There is panic, especially among the retailers, which is why they are not accepting the currency or giving change. The bigger businesses are not that wary of accepting the currency.”
Long queues at fuel pumps
Not just shops, people are also filling their vehicle’s fuel tanks using the Rs 2,000 notes at petrol pumps across various cities.
In Delhi, petrol pumps witnessed long queues with people handing over Rs 2,000 notes.
“Essentially, they are using petrol pumps as banks,” Anurag Narayanan, an owner of one such facility in central Delhi, told TOI.
Rajeev Jain, general secretary of Delhi Petrol Dealers’ Association, said: “There are around 400 petrol pumps in the city. Almost all of them are witnessing a rush of people trying to get rid of Rs 2,000 notes. In two days, there has been a four-time rise in transactions. Some operators have even put up boards, stating that they are not accepting Rs 2,000 notes.”
Similar rush was seen at fuel pumps in Kolkata, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
Small queues, confusion over rules
Meanwhile, there was some confusion and small queues at banks as the 131-day window to exchange the notes opened on Tuesday.
Some banks exchanged notes by making an electronic entry, few others asked customers to pen down their name and mobile number in a registrar without giving any identity proof.
At some places, however, customers said they were asked to present their PAN or Aadhaar cards. A small number of customers claimed the bank they visited did not exchange the notes and instead asked them to deposit those in their accounts.
While the queues and long waits witnessed in 2016 were not there, customer feedback indicated a lack of consistent policy across banks.
The RBI on Friday announced the withdrawal of Rs 2,000 denomination banknotes as part of its currency management. It has maintained that this wasn’t demonetization as the 2000 rupee notes continue to be legal tender, meaning they can be used for making payments.
The notes constitute around 10.8 per cent of total currency in circulation or Rs 3.6 lakh crore. The notes can be exchanged or deposited till September 30, 2023.
(With inputs from Reuters, PTI)