Millions scramble after authorities scrap its largest banknotes

Tracy FergusonNov 12, 2016

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's gamechanging move to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes has left hundreds rushing to their nearby bank branch to get new currency notes.

In a BBC report, one financial services sector employee said he would have to take time off from his job to exchange notes at a bank. Banks and ATMs were shut on Wednesday, but have been ordered to remain open over the weekend.

Elsewhere a host of start-ups took advantage of people's eagerness to get rid of cash, safe in the knowledge notes could be exchanged at the bank after two days. "There seems to be a lot of confusion over what people can and cannot do with their cash".

Old high denomination bank notes are seen kept in buckets at a counter as people stand in a queue to deposit their money inside a bank in the northern city of Kanpur, India, November 10, 2016.

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The government is also closely monitoring all cash deposits at banks over the next few weeks, with any above 250,000 rupees (US$3,756) liable to be taxed.

The government of India had made 86% of the currency notes in the country invalid by demonetizing 500 and 1000 rupees notes on Tuesday.

This new development has also raised many questions among the huge Indian diaspora living overseas. The nation's largest Bank of India (SBI) has announced an extension in banking hours, till 6 p.m. on Thursday.

One of the clearest options for overseas Indians is to travel back to India to exchange the notes in person.

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Customers will be able to exchange their old notes for new ones or deposit them into their accounts but face the prospect of major scrutiny by tax authorities if they can not account for a sudden swell in their balance. They also predicted a rush on gold, foreign currency and other forms of wealth.

India is an overwhelmingly cash-based economy and banned currency notes are estimated to be 85 percent of the cash in circulation in the country.

Former Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, of the opposition Congress party, warned that poor farmers, workers and small traders would be hit hard.

How much "black money" is there in circulation? On the second day today, banks continued to witness heavy rush across the state with people queuing up to deposit Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 denomination notes, demonetised by the central government.

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