Rural post offices of Odisha, the lifeline of the rural economy in the state, witnessed chaotic scenes due to absence of machines to detect counterfeit notes, making it difficult to exchange demonetised currency notes.
Serpentine queues, rush and chaos were witnessed in rural post offices in districts like Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur as over 700 branch offices and sub-post offices lacked the infrastructure and manpower to tackle the emergent situation.
People who rushed to withdraw or deposit the demonetised cash were turned away. Those who had dropped in to exchange the demonetised cash also failed to do so. People’s anger and despair was palpable in several places.
“This is my money. I sweated it out in farmland to earn it. But post office did not accept high-denomination notes by stating that it has already received cash beyond its reserve. We people who toil to earn it are being harassed,” a local in Bedari village of Kendrapara district said.
No rural post office branch here is equipped with counterfeit note detection machine and ultraviolet tool to detect genuine notes from counterfeit ones. That has compounded the plight of rural post office staff who are not ready to put their job at stake.
“Manually detecting the fake notes is an uphill task as there is heavy rush at counters. There is every possibility of counterfeit notes sneaking into our chest. That’s why, we are forced to turn away people on some pretext or the other,” said a village post master, requesting not to be named.
Officials of postal division also admitted infrastructural deficiencies hitting monetary transaction.
Deputy Superintendent, Cuttack North postal Division, Amiya Nayak said, “The department has not provided note counting machine and counterfeit detection device to rural branch offices. The rural post offices are empowered to keep in cash reserve varying from Rs 3,000 to 5,000 as these branches are bereft of security.
“The postmasters have been asked to transfer the excess cash reserve every day either at the nearby sub-post offices or the head post offices. They have also been asked to manually do the note-verification job and attend to the maximum number of people daily,” Nayak said.
“Our division has 542 rural post offices in areas of Kendrapara district where nationalised banks are yet to open its branches. People repose utmost faith in post offices, which help people develop banking habits. We are trying to improve the situation in coming days by rushing in note counting and detection machines to branches where there is heavy rush of customers,” he added.