In a bid to ease the cash crunch being faced by people following the government’s move to demonetise high-value currency notes, several petrol pumps across the country today began dispensing cash of up to Rs 2,000 through debit or credit cards swipe.
The move comes after the government allowed public sector oil companies to do so in view of people queuing up at banks and ATMs to access cash from their accounts.
According to PIB, cash dispensing facility had become operational at 686 retail outlets by 4 pm today (Friday), of which 350 belonged to IOCL, 266 to BPCL and 70 to HPCL.
Initially, the facility will be available at 2,500 petrol pumps including rural areas, where SBI Point of Sale machines are provided.
Rs 2000 per person per day in cash can be dispensed, officials said, adding that the facility will be extended to over 20,000 petrol pumps over the next three days that have card swipe machines from HDFC Bank, Citibank and ICICI Bank.
The initiative has been launched by public sector oil companies namely Indian Oil Corporation Limited, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited, in association with State Bank of India (SBI) to ease the burden on banks and ATMs.
Senior officials of IOCL, BPCL and HPCL today had a meeting with State Bank of India Chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya and decided that an amount up to Rs 2,000 per day per person in cash can be dispensed against swiping of debit card from select petrol pumps where Point of Sale machines of SBI are already available.
Point of Sale machines are generally used for debit or credit card transactions.
This facility will be available even after November 24, 2016. Petrol pumps have been accepting currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denominations and are allowed to do so till November 24, 2016.
Meanwhile, nine days after demonetisation of high denomination notes, there was no let-up in the rush and long queues outside banks and ATMs across the country while authorities maintained that the cash crunch situation has improved substantially and there was no panic.
As the political slugfest over the demonetisation inside and outside Parliament escalated, banks struggled to manage huge rush of people thronging branches to exchange scrapped Rs 500 and Rs 100 notes and get cash to meet their daily needs. Despite some ATMs getting calibrated to dispense Rs 500 notes, such vending machines were running out of cash because of huge pressure of withdrawal.
Queues at some branches in the metros were tad shorter for exchange of old currencies as the process of putting indelible ink commenced yesterday. As a result of this, those who have already traded old currency notes are unable to exchange again on the same day due to the ink mark.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the rush at bank branches has come down significantly today and that there is absolutely no panic.
With the government and RBI struggling to ease cash availability, the small businesses - from vegetable vendors to dhabas and small kirana stores - that use cash as mode of transaction were the worst hit.
A bulk of daily labourers were rendered jobless as construction and other activities came to a standstill in the wake of cement, sand and other supplies not coming in.
Truckers too were reportedly stranded on highways as drivers ran out of valid currency notes, affecting movement of goods in several parts of the country.
While some banks in Kolkata accepted cash, most of them stopped disbursing it mainly due to cash crunch, with a number of ATMs in and around the city putting up either "no cash" or "temporary out of service" notice.
"I am here from Assam to pursue my MA from Calcutta University. My family sends money and I use my debit card to access it. The card has expired last week and I am unable to pay my bills. Neither am I able to withdraw anything because I do not have cheques. I am left with a few Rs 500 notes to exchange...I have to skip classes to come to bank everyday for this," Anirban Burman said in Kolkata.
Shortage of small change has hit the state-run liquor outlets, vegetable markets and small vendors in Tamil Nadu even as large number of people continued to throng various banks and ATMs which ran dry within few hours.
"Shortage of small currency like Rs 100 or Rs 50 has crippled financial transactions," said a customer waiting in queue before a public sector bank in Chennai.
A group of women, affiliated to All India Democratic Women Association, symbolically performed 'last rites' of an ATM in Coimbatore in protest against its non-functioning.
Since no money was coming from the machine, it was now dead and the women were performing its last rites, by paying floral tributes, an AIDWA representative said.
In Kerala, the state government has worked out a plan by which the salary amount would be deposited in the account of respective district collectors, who would be entrusted to disburse the salary to workers in plantation and cash crops sector.