Dec. 15: From murder to disenchantment to skewering questions, seemingly unconnected events in the past 24 hours in places far apart from one another have brought to the fore the unintended consequences of demonetisation in the country.
Over 100 factory owners in Amritsar have handed over keys of their units to the district administration in a symbolic protest that stood out in sharp contrast with the public pronouncements of support for demonetisation from most of corporate India.
"The problem is very simple. We cannot run our units any more. Let the government do it," said Amit Dalmiya, who runs a textile processing unit in Amritsar
"If Modiji can run the country, he can also run the industry... it is a question of survival and the situation has gone beyond us," Krishna Kumar Sharma, the president of the Amritsar Textile Processor Association, told The Telegraph this evening.
One industrialist who sought anonymity indicated his political choice. Without naming anyone, he said: " Pehli baar to aadmi par bharosa hota hi hai... baad mein pata chalta hai.... (The first time you do trust a man... then realisation dawns). They did not go into demonetisation with full planning."
On Wednesday, the industrialists handed over the keys to the additional deputy commissioner, Tajinderpal Singh Sandhu.
Amritsar is home to around 60 textile processing units on which another 700-800 embroidery, knitting and weaving units are dependent.
"At this moment our units are running at 20 per cent of the optimum capacity.... The labour strength had to be halved because of the prevailing economic situation," said Sharma.
The units have been hit badly because of sudden cancellation of bulk orders since the demonetisation drive started. "If a person manages to withdraw Rs 2,000 from an ATM, he will buy food and not clothes," said an industrialist.
A contract worker with HDFC Bank was stabbed to death in Gujarat by three people with whom he had allegedly struck a deal to exchange notes.
Rajesh Bhilariya, 27, was called today afternoon to a village in Junagadh where he was allegedly supposed to accept Rs 9 lakh in old notes and hand over new ones, police inspector Ashok Tilva said. Rajesh worked as a " mitra" or "correspondent" (effectively rural agents) of the bank.
Police said Rajesh had reached the spot with his cousin. But the three would-be cash recipients snatched the bag with the new notes and tried to escape. When Rajesh tried to stop them, he was stabbed, the police said.
An SBI branch and an adjoining ATM kiosk were ransacked in Malda today after hundreds of account holders seeking cash for family weddings, potato cultivation and travel were told each could withdraw no more than Rs 3,000.
The account holders had queued up at the Balupur branch in Ratua, around 50km from Malda, from daybreak. The SBI branch, with 3,500 account holders, is the sole bank in the area.
Saidul Sheikh, who was in the queue, said the bank staff initially offered only Rs 1,000 when depositors demanded the weekly quota of Rs 24,000. The amount was then raised to Rs 2,000 and then Rs 3,000.
The trouble broke out around noon. The bank employees and officers fled.
Mushref Miyan, a trader, said he was becoming increasingly nervous. "My daughter's wedding is on Sunday. The Prime Minister had said we could draw Rs 24,000 each week. I have about Rs 80,000 in my account. But the bank is offering Rs 1,000 and I am really feeling frustrated. The people erupted today," he said.
Subol Pal, a farmer, said he needed Rs 40,000 immediately. "I am not being able to start my potato and vegetable cultivation as I need to invest Rs 40,000. The cash crisis is affecting hundreds of farmers like me," Pal said.
Ankan Paul, the manager of the Balupur SBI branch, said: "We are helpless. We are distributing whatever cash we are being sent. The bank was shut down after the violence."
Arun Kumar Sinha, the SBI regional manager, said that things were expected to normalise after tomorrow.
BJP parliamentarians and party office bearers have told Amit Shah that the government needs to ensure adequate flow of cash in banks to check discontent among the people despite continued support for demonetisation.
"The public mood is still in favour of the government on demonetisation but people are facing hardships due to the shortage of cash. The government has to increase the cash flow to keep the people favourable," one MP from eastern Uttar Pradesh was quoted as having told a meeting on Wednesday evening.
Concerned by the feedback, the BJP leadership had called separate meetings of party MPs and office bearers on Wednesday and Thursday.
The Supreme Court today took note of growing instances of new currency notes being funnelled out of banks and asked the Centre "you are not able to secure it?"
The court also grilled the government on withdrawing exemptions granted to hospitals and pharmacies for accepting the demonetised notes.
The apex court underscored that although the government claimed that it had infused new currency worth Rs 5 lakh crore into the system, the ground reality was that people were not able to get even the promised Rs 24,000 per week.
Responding to questions from a bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, attorney-general Mukul Rohatgi said certain bank officials were diverting the money. "Bank managers had done this fraud.... The Government of India can't sit in every bank and monitor. We are having raids every day."
The submission invited a repartee from Justice Thakur and triggered titters in the courtroom: "So your Rs 5 lakh crore has gone this way. You are not able to secure it?"
When the attorney-general contended that there had been no complaint or protests from the common man on withdrawal of exemptions, Justice Thakur asked: "You expect all people to come here? Please tell us what is your apprehension? What is wrong in exempting government hospitals? How can it be misused in government hospitals?"