Kolkata: Panic, anger, praise and confusion – the reaction was mixed in Kolkata as long, serpentine queues were seen outside ATMs, while roadside shops, restaurants and even Metro railway counters refused to accept Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination notes after they were demonitised by the Narendra Modi government from midnight on Tuesday.
An IANS correspondent found personnel at the Kolkata Metro Railway counters pleading with people not to give Rs 500 denomination notes as they had run out of Rs 100 notes.. “We are out of change. Everybody wants to give Rs 500 notes since the news broke this evening,a said a booking clerk.
At a famed Chinese restaurant in the Tangra area, an office group was taken aback when the cashier returned the three Rs 1,000 notes they had handed out after a sumptuous meal.
“We just got the news. We cannot take the money,” said the cashier at around 9 pm, officially three hours ahead of the notes becoming officially illegal.
Cigarette shops, grocers and stationers et al all declined to accept the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. “Please spare us. What will we do with this tomorrow,” the shop owners pleaded.
Outside an ATM in the Bhowanipore are of south Kolkata, while some compared Modi to Mohammed Bin Tughlaq, there were others who called the step “historic” and a “master stroke” which will “eradicate black money”.
“Who thinks about us? He was supposed to bring back black money stashed abroad. But he has carried a surgical strike on the people of India. How will we meet the expenses tomorrow? Already some ATMs are running dry of Rs 100 notes,” said an elderly man.
“What about my father who is to undergo a surgery tomorrow and I have already withdrawn money from the bank to pay the bill? Naturally, they have withdrawn the money in Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes,” said a distraught man, who seemed unconvinced even when he was told that hospitals was allowed to accept the notes.
Another man said he did not have any money in his pocket to pay his taxi fare for returning home. “I had planned to draw out some money from the ATM to pay the fare, but look at the queue now. If the stock of Rs 100 notes are exhausted, how will I go home? The taxi driver will surely not accept the Rs 500 denomination note”.
However, another man standing in the same queue seemed ecstatic. “Modi has shown what stuff he is made of. It is a masterstroke. Only blackmarketeers and the unscrupulous are angry and unhappy. Modi has proved he is an ustad.”
Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the nation, the government initiative was virtually the only matter discussed in tea stalls, street corners and on buses and other public transport, with people debating the pros and cons of the move.
But most people seemed tense and confused.