Mumbai/Thalassery: The scramble by millions of panicked consumers to exchange banned currency or deposit them turned tragic on Friday when two people died in separate incidents in Maharashtra and Kerala amid chaos and confusion for the second straight day with poor cash flow.
As banks across the country struggled to contain serpentine queues since early morning, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi took people by surprise when he visited SBI's Parliament Street branch in Delhi to exchange banned notes with new ones, in a show of solidarity with increasingly impatient people.
There were no signs of immediate relief even as several cash-strapped people were told to go back after bank servers at several branches reportedly collapsed while several ATMs went dry in a few hours. People who were able to exchange the old currency could get hold of the new notes only after waiting for several hours.
Vishwanath Vartak, 73, who was standing in the queue before an SBI branch for exchanging currency, collapsed and died on the spot at Navghar in Mulund in eastern suburbs, police said.
Vartak had been standing for hours in the queue to exchange Rs.1000 and Rs.500 denomination notes. Though he was rushed to hospital by some people who saw him collapse, he was declared dead before admission, police said.
In another incident, a 48-year old man, who came to deposit Rs five lakh worth scrapped high denomination notes in a bank in Thalassery in Kerala, died after he fell down from the second floor of a building.
Unni, a Kerala State Electricity Board employee, was filling the necessary forms to deposit the amount in the State Bank of Travancore's branch, located in the first floor, when the mishap occurred, they said quoting preliminary information.
He had unsuccessfully tried to deposit the notes yesterday and came to the bank again this morning. Running out of money for the last two days, men and women across the country had thronged the ATMs since early morning while in many places, to their disappointment, they found the machines not working.
Police was also called in to help banks control the angry depositors whose patience wore thin after standing in long queues.
"People are facing hardships. That's why I have come to join them. I am here to exchange my Rs 4,000 with new notes," Rahul Gandhi told reporters.
"Neither will you (reporters) nor your crorepati owners nor the Prime Minister understand the problems faced by people, he said.
The Congress leader, who reached the SBI's Parliament Street branch at around 4.25 PM, waited for his turn in queue to exchange his old notes.
"I waited for an hour in the queue and minutes before my turn the ATM was already down. My biggest problem is buying groceries and paying for other petty expenses," said 35-year-old housewife Aditi Saha in Kolkata.
Even the bank employees are facing tough time dealing with customers in view of people rushing to the banks to exchange their old money.
"We (employees) could not get time to have our lunch during the day as the branch was flooded by people," S K Shrivastava, Manager, Bank of India, S K Nagar branch in Patna said....