Banks across nation see long queues to exchange old notes

It was a manic rush outside most banks across the country on Thursday, with people seen waiting outside many banks as early as 6 am to exchange the now defunct Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes and have some money to spend.

The government demonetised the two currency notes on Tuesday night as part of its efforts to curb black money, fake currency and terror financing. Banks and ATMs were shut on Wednesday, but have been ordered to remain open over the weekend.

It may be noted that ATMs are not open today either.

There are about 149 scheduled commercial banks, including 56 regional rural banks, with a branch network of about 1.30 lakh across the country. Besides, co-operative banks have also been asked to take deposits and exchange the old notes with new ones.

In a related development, the Supreme Court has refused to give an urgent hearing to a petition to quash the 8 November government notification demonetising the notes.

As many 3,400 personnel of paramilitary and Delhi Police, along with quick reaction teams, were deployed across the national capital.

The home ministry has kept about 1,000 personnel on standby for deployment in case of any emergency, officials said. About 200 quick reaction teams are positioned in various parts of the city.

In the country's financial capital Mumbai, Maharashtra finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar urged people not to panic in the wake of the demonetisation move, as the government has made elaborate arrangements for the exchange of Rs500 and Rs1,000 rupee notes at bank branches.

Mungantiwar said besides nationalised and private banks, the state has asked its central district cooperative banks and district cooperative banks to accept the old demonetised notes.

Mungantiwar also said the government has asked Maharashtra director general of police (DGP) Satish Mathur to deploy police personnel at banks to deal with any law and order situation.

''The government will also depute its revenue department officials at banks to assist them and the people in filling up the currency notes exchange forms,'' he told reporters in Mumbai.

Banks across the city opened up to long, serpentine queues as people rushed to their local branches first thing in the morning to deposit high denomination currency notes in their accounts or to exchange them for lower denomination currency, with people turning up at the banks as early as 7:30 am.