Two weeks after the government’s decision to stop the use of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, the queues outside banks are still the same and so are the problems for the bankers. Accusing RBI Governor Urjit Patel of creating ‘havoc’ in the Indian economy because of an unprepared decision to demonetise high-value currency, senior vice president of All India Bank Officer’s Confederation (AIBOC), D Thomas Franco, told The Indian Express that Patel should take moral responsibility for the issue and the several deaths, which include 11 bank officers in the last twelve days. AIBOC represents more than 2.5 lakh senior officers from every nationalised, old-generation private sector, cooperative and regional rural banks in the country.
According to Franco, the Narendra Modi-led government could have drawn an inference from other countries and even the Indian demonetisation drive in Morarji Desai’s government in 1978, when RBI then-governor IG Patel had advised the government, not to go with the move. Franco told IE, “We all know that neither Prime Minister Narendra Modi nor Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is an economist. We have economists in RBI to take the right decisions on matters relating to the economy and people’s lives. The present governor has utterly failed in his role by taking a crucial economic decision without planning, which has brought havoc to the nation’s economy and lives of the majority.
Franco said that since there is a huge crisis, the Rs 100 notes that the banks receive are mainly soiled notes which the RBI has reintroduced. These notes, as he says, are rejected by machines, making it a huge task for officers to sort so many notes manually. He told IE, “Had there been a little planning, they could have printed Rs 500 and Rs 100 notes instead of printing Rs 2,000 notes.” Talking about how economists at RBI failed the people, and said, “Does it mean these economists have no clue about how transactions work and currency travels in a country like India?… All the soiled notes have to come back again as they are meant to be disposed of.”
He said that the Rs 500 notes are still unavailable in banks. He asked that since the Rs 2,000 notes are smaller than the normal notes, why didn’t Urjit Patel realise it? He said that because of this move, banks have to recalibrate two lakh ATMs. He also talked about the reports of ‘misery and despair’. He said that bank counters are filled with people crying. Even the bank officers have been working for 16 to 18 hours for almost two weeks and still cannot afford to take half a day’s leave.
He said, “It was very, very poor planning on the part of RBI that has led to this crisis. They did not even have a roadmap. Those who sat and rolled out the demonetisation drive didn’t have a basic idea about how the Indian economy works and transactions happen. We understand that there were no discussions with experts and stakeholders before they took the decision. RBI has to now count and verify all these banned notes again. When we talk about deposits of several thousand crores, we do not know how many of them were forged notes. Collection of old notes in bank branches is being done in a hurry due to heavy crowds. Before they took the decision, the total currency status in all the banks and branches in the country was a single click away for them.”
He also adds that the poor planning also included Shaktikanta Das announcing decisions without having any authority and also the fact that RBI does not allow co-operative banks to exchange currency despite their huge investments and rural reach.