'Today may be the last day for depositing old notes, but tomorrow all the worries of the banks will not go away.'
'As long as there is cash shortage, banks will not be able to function normally.'
'Nobody knows when the shortage will be over.'
D Singaravelu, general secretary of the State Bank of India Staff Union for Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, tells Rediff.com's A Ganesh Nadar how bank employees are dealing with demonetisation.
When the note ban announcement came on November 8, we immediately alerted our members with a written communication on what they should do and what they should not do.
Our aim was to safeguard the people and our employees.
The next day was a bank holiday and we started recalibrating the ATMs.
When the banks opened and the crowds came in there was total paralysis.
There were no new currency notes at the banks. All they could do is accept the old notes.
The situation has since then resembled the Tughlaq darbar more than anything else.
The Reserve Bank of India has issued 60 notifications in 50 days.
Employees have been put into a lot of trouble with these daily changing notifications.
Nobody knows how to work.
We have been told to stop accepting old notes at 4 pm on December 30.
What about people waiting at the bank? Are we supposed to chase them out?
We are the largest bank in the country, but more currency is sent to private banks.
Everyday waiting for currency is the biggest issue.
Demonetisation was not given any thought.
India is an agricultural economy and 70% of our people are involved in farming.
A cashless economy will not work here.
Today may be the last day for depositing old notes, but tomorrow all the worries of the banks will not go away.
As long as there is cash shortage, banks will not be able to function normally.
Nobody knows when the shortage will be over.
The public has panicked. Nobody is spending money.
Even the Rs 24,000 that people are withdrawing is not coming back into the economy.
People are not spending because they are not sure whether they will get more money.
We have worked overtime since day one.
We have worked on some weekends too. We have not been paid for our overtime work. We will make sure our workers are paid.
The economy has been paralysed and no one has any idea how it can recover.
'The RBI is supposed to be autonomous. They should have stood their ground'
Thomas Franco Rajendra Dev, general secretary, SBI Officers Union, tells Rediff.com's A Ganesh Nadar about the problems banks face.
On November 8, when demonetisation was announced, I thought it was a good move and would bring a change in the economy.
On November 10, reality hit me. There was no cash in any bank and we could only accept old notes.
Only after we saw the Rs 2,000 notes did we realise that they were a different size and we could not load the ATM machines immediately. Every tray had to be changed.
The RBI has not done its homework. Distribution could not be done on time.
At our branches customers were screaming at our staff. We had to call the police to control the crowds.
On the first day most of our branch officers were working till 11 pm. The Pondicherry main branch was open till 4 am the next morning.
To add to our misery, there were contradictory instructions every day.
But the biggest issue has been the shortage of currency.
Every morning our officers go to the RBI begging for money.
All our branches have been giving Rs 10,000 per account at one time.
Some branches have even made the daily withdrawal limit Rs 2,000, Rs 4,000 or Rs 6,000 depending on how much money they receive.
Everyday our officers are going home at 9 to 10 pm.
There are 137 currency chest branches. They have had no holiday at all. This is because they have to supply the banks and the ATMs.
We had no space to keep the old currency as the RBI was too busy to accept it. Now they are telling us that we have to deposit all the currency by December 31.
If all banks remit at the same time I really don't know how that will be done.
All other bank work has come to a standstill.
The bank's profitability is going to be affected. Then they will say we are operating at a loss and we should be privatised.
The new RBI governor is a strong advocate of privatisation. He has written many papers on that.
Large seizures of new currency have been made. We checked the serial numbers. They are not the same. They have used a large number of people to withdraw money from the banks.
In some cases private banks have given large amounts of new currency to some customers.
On the first two days they gave us Rs 3,000 per day as overtime. For the weekend we worked they gave us Rs 6,000 per day as overtime. After that we have not received any overtime.
Everyday is overtime now. We have to be paid.
Normal banking is possible only when there is adequate currency.
This exercise has been a total failure.
The RBI is supposed to be autonomous. They should have stood their ground.
That is the reason why Raghuram Rajan was not retained. Though he agreed with government policy he would never compromise the RBI's interests or say yes to unworkable schemes.