January 4th, 2017
“Any person who is unable to exchange or deposit the specified banknotes in their bank accounts on or before December 30, 2016, shall be given an opportunity to do so at specified offices of the Reserve Bank or such other facility until a later date as may be specified by the Reserve Bank.”
- The Reserve Bank of India on 8 November 2016.
“There may be some who for some reason, are not able to deposit their old 500 or 1,000 rupee notes by December 30, 2016 … They can go to specified offices of the Reserve Bank of India up to March 31, 2017, and deposit the notes after submitting a declaration form.”
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 8 November 2016.
In a move that has evoked outrage, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) halted the process of exchanging invalid currency notes. Previously, it was declared that old notes could be exchanged at the RBI’s regional offices until 31 March 2017.
Reports of the RBI’s u-turn infuriated citizens around the country, from Ahmedabad to Bengaluru. In some places, a hand-written note was passed to the crowd saying old Rs 500 and 1000 notes will no longer be exchanged.
In the Bengaluru RBI office, the crowd was told to come back after further directives have been issued by the RBI. In Delhi, not far away from Parliament House, a poor woman accompanied by her child, frustrated over being told that she would not get new notes in exchange for her old ones, took off her clothes and sat topless in front of the RBI gates, crying desperately. She was later taken to the police station.
Meanwhile, Indians who were abroad between 9 November and 30 December have been given a three-month grace period until 31 March 2017 while for the NRIs, it is six months until 30 June 2017.
The Logical Indian take
This upsetting move by the RBI comes a few days after the Cabinet announced that anyone possessing the demonetised notes would face penalties in the form of fines and even jail terms. This is branding people as criminals for following the directives.
It is unacceptable that so many missteps are occurring that too in the same week. One can debate endlessly on the note demonetisation move of the Government. However, it is beyond any doubt that measures have to be taken to ease the transition for citizens – and, more importantly, measures already announced should be strictly adhered to. People travel from far-flung places, missing work and spending what little they might have on transportation, to the RBI offices to exchange their old notes. Turning these people away is an insult. Such missteps invariably affect the poor more than any other demographic. The Government and the RBI need to quickly take action so that the RBI conducts its business as promised.