It’s been a while. And although a lot of things happened, the one thing that shook up my stay here in this already very alien country occurred just a few days ago, the night before the US elections: Two hours before midnight the prime minister of India publicly announced that the highest denominations, 1000 and 500 rupees, worth around 14 and 7€ are declared worthless starting at 0:00 that night.
Two hours later the 100 rupees bill became the highest valid bank note, worth around 1,4€, leaving the whole nation with only little and less cash in their pockets to spend the next day. By morning all the ATMs were stripped of their 100rs-bills and within the first few hours of the day banks ran out of their stack of bills as well and shut down.
It’s four days later now and the first ATMs have started working again, dispensing freshly printed 500rs- and 2000rs-bills that have been introduced to substitute the old denominations. But with a huge portion of the population and many many shops not using electronic payment methods the banks are still under siege by large cash-dependent crowds which no one seems to be able to serve proper- and effectively.
In my opinion this is not only, but also due to that one additional regulation that might actually break my own financial neck: People are only allowed to withdraw 2000rs/day from ATMs and 10000rs/day from counters. Of course this rule was put in place to evenly distribute the new and temporarily limited denominations to the public, but for people completely dependent on cash – like I am – this poses a serious inconvenience. For me this problem becomes a notch more serious, because I actually pay a fixed fee of 500rs for every transaction I do with my credit card. When withdrawing large amounts of money at once this isn’t too much of a heartbreak. But when only withdrawing 2000rs a time and having to do that approximately 20-25 times a month,…
As ridiculous – and thus entertaining – as this situation is to me at the moment, I have to step carefully and keep an eye on the news these days. Everyone here is trying to live a daily life as close to usual business as possible, weary about what might happen next. But I myself have to hope for the withdrawal limitations being lifted within the next 2-3 weeks. Otherwise this small fun financial revolution, brought to us by “Modi Entertainment” might very well mean the early end of my stay in this country.