News Flash – 18 April 2018

National News



Cash crunch at ATM’s: Are Rs 2,000 notes being hoarded?


NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: The problem of empty ATMs seems to have returned to haunt citizens in several parts of the country, such as Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, prompting the government and Reserve Bank of India to swing into damage control mode to calm jittery depositors. With the public searching for a reason for the cash crunch, the government attributed it to an “unusual spurt in currency demand”. But there is no official explanation for this spurt. Several bank officials said a lot of 2,000-rupee notes were not coming back to banks, leading to speculation that they were going into the black economy, perhaps as they take less space to stock and are easier to transport. One theory doing the rounds is that cash is being hoarded by political parties and their supporters in the run-up to the Karnataka elections next month. While finance minister Arun Jaitley said there was a “sudden and unusual increase” in demand in some parts of the country, the opposition lost no time in latching on to the issue with P Chidambaram saying supply had been “arbitrarily reduced”. His party chief Rahul Gandhi linked the problem to the Nirav Modi fraud and demonetisation.


The government said currency supply had risen to Rs 45,000 crore during the first 13 days of April — from Rs 7,140 crore in the previous fortnight and Rs 33,000 crore in the comparable period prior to that. ATM operators and government officials said that on an average, over Rs 10,000 crore was being placed in ATMs every day, compared to Rs 6,000-7,000 crore before demonetisation — which suggests that despite the push to go digital, the appetite for cash remains undimmed. The use of Rs 2,000 notes, in particular, is seen to be causing the problem. “Cash withdrawal from ATMs has witnessed continuous escalation post-demonetisation. Daily ATM transaction volume is now at par or greater than the pre-demonetisation period. Amount withdrawn per ATM withdrawal is also on the rise,” said Rituraj Sinha, MD of cash logistics company SIS, adding that the problem was confined to a few regions. The shortage first emerged in Andhra and Telangana — home to some of the country’s biggest contractors, and contractors, it is often said, like cash. The shortage gradually spread to some other parts of the country with MP CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan acknowledging the problem on Monday. Bihar deputy CM Sushil Modi said the state was facing a cash crunch for six days.


“The RBI said there was a shortage of supply of currency notes, due to which the cash crunch occurred. But they have assured us that the problem will be resolved in the next day or two,” he said. Gujarat deputy CM Nitin Patel, who is also finance minister, acknowledged that banks were facing a cash crunch and said the government was in touch with the RBI. RBI, however, maintained there was no shortage of cash. “It is clarified… there is sufficient cash in the RBI vaults and currency chests. Nevertheless, printing of the notes has been ramped up in all the four note presses. The shortage may be felt in some pockets largely due to logistical issues of replenishing ATMs frequently and the recalibration of ATMs being still under way…,” it said in a statement on Tuesday. Economic affairs secretary Subhash Chandra Garg said the printing of Rs 500 notes would be stepped up five-fold to around Rs 2,500 crore a day to deal with the shortage. “So, in a month, we will be printing about Rs 75,000 crore. This should give you assurance we are geared up,” he said.



8 dead, several injured as massive storm hits Kolkata, suburbs


KOLKATA: Eight people were killed and several others injured on Tuesday after strong winds of up to 98 km per hour hit the West Bengal capital and its adjoining areas, disrupting public transport and traffic, officials said. Unconfirmed sources, however, put the death toll at 13. Five deaths were reported here while two died in Bankura district and one in Howrah district, police said. “A nor’wester hit the city with a gale force of 98 km per hour around 7.42 pm,” Regional Meteorological Director G K Das said. Police said uprooted trees blocked at least 26 places, disrupting traffic. The Kolkata Municipal Corporation pressed into service a disaster management team to clear the debris. Electrical fires were reported from various parts of the metropolis, a fire department official said. The New Market police station, located in the heart of the city, plunged into darkness following a short circuit during the storm, he said. People returning home after work faced traffic jams and snarls, as metro and train services were hit. Metro services were disrupted for over two hours from 7.50 pm, a Kolkata Metro Railway spokesperson said. Eastern and South Eastern Railway sources said suburban train services in Sealdah and Howrah divisions were affected as overhead wires snapped during the storm. A section of a railing fell on an empty train at Howrah station, the sources said, adding that no one was injured. Departure and arrival of some flights, too, were delayed because of gusty winds, airport officials said.



Delhi: 4 fires in 4 days, no lessons learnt



NEW DELHI: Four major fires in as many days have again put a question mark on safety standards in the capital’s major manufacturing hubs. Firefighters say a majority of the workforce in industrial units doesn’t have even the basic training to respond to emergency situations. A fire department official who didn’t want to be named said: “Most factory owners don’t train workers for emergency situations. It’s not a priority as these men are often replaced. In many cases, workers have lost their lives to the basic error of running inside and locking themselves in a room to escape a blaze.” In a recent incident at a jeans factory in Karol Bagh, he recalled, a worker lost his way in the smoke and confined himself to a washroom where he died of asphyxiation. Another reason for the heavy loss of life and property due to fires in Delhi, according to officials, is that firefighting equipment isn’t easily accessible to workers. As a result, crucial time is lost by the time help arrives. “There aren’t adequate exits at most units. During night, factory gates are often locked from outside as these function illegally.


In the Bawana factory blaze, which claimed 17 lives, the damage could have been far lower had the main gate not been locked. The only person to survive the incident did so by jumping off the first floor,” a firefighter said, adding that small entrances made it tough for rescuers to take quick action. Poor wiring and inferior building material often resulted in short circuits, the primary cause of fires, he said. Officials ruled that people didn’t approach them to seek fire safety certificates and, even when they did, they hid information to complete the formalities quickly. Police officers, in turn, claimed that jurisdiction issues resulted in delayed response to emergency situations. Also, cops cannot take suo moto action against people violating safety norms in industrial areas. “Despite the presence of illegal industrial units, we can act only after an accident. Every factory owner need a set of licences that are granted by various civic agencies. They can only be approved after a site inspection. These owners either bypass these agencies, or manage to get the clearances without fulfilling all the requirements,” a senior police officer said.



DeMon returns? ATMs run dry, citizens fume and queue up as Hyderabad again cash starved


HYDERABAD: The ‘no-cash’ boards that greeted the city for months after demonetisation in November 2016 are back, forcing citizens to go in circles with hundreds of ATMs running dry. “After trying my luck in 12 ATMs, I was able to find one machine that dispensed cash,” N Anil Kumar, a kirana shop owner at Panjagutta, said. All the ATMs were empty in several lanes and by lanes of Khairatabad on Tuesday. Dejected people are greeted with ‘no cash’ at HDFC, Andhra Bank, ICICI and Axis Bank ATMs. “The cash is loaded at 2 pm and it gets over within one hour. People are seething with rage,” said a security guard at an ICICI ATM in Khairatabad. As complaints are pouring in from everywhere, Shivaani Sen, a model and compere, said: “Looks like ATMs would be discarded and people will queue up at banks for money. More smartphones would be sold purely because Paytm is fast becoming the new currency”.


M Anjaneyulu, who was spotted rushing into an ATM after another at Mehdipatnam, said: “There is no money in ATMs since morning”. Several netizens took to Twitter and expressed disappointment over the issue. Another netizen Prakash Pothumudi @Pothumudi tagged Union FM Arun Jaitley and tweeted, “Sorry to tell you sir, at least in Hyderabad right from demonetisation there has been heavy cash crunch. I always wait for 2-3 days to withdraw money”. Ravi Teja pointed out that none of the biryani hotels is allowing card or digital transactions and want the bill paid only in cash. When contacted, the issues department of RBI Hyderabad office said they will only be able to comment on the issue on Wednesday after they speak with general manager.



ATM’s run dry in DeMon rerun Panic


KOLKATA: News of cash crunch at ATMs in various cities, caused by a government decision to replace currency notes of Rs 2,000 denomination with those of Rs 200, sparked fears of a crisis in Kolkata and elsewhere in the state. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s remark that the situation reminded one of demonetisation further accentuated the anxiety. The subsequent rush to withdraw money led to many ATMs running dry, heralding a crisis that bank officials said, would otherwise not have happened. Six out of seven ATMs in Kolkata were on Tuesday afternoon dispensing cash and there was no shortage in sight. But anxiety was stoked by TV news reports on the cash shortage in other cities. “Seeing reports of ATMs running out of cash in several states. Big notes missing. Reminder of Demonetisation days. Is there a Financial Emergency going on in the country?” a tweet by the CM heightened the concerns. Soon, queues began to build up outside ATMs. There are 12,000 ATMs in Bengal, of which 3,000 are in Kolkata. State Bank of India and HDFC Bank sources said around 86% ATMs in Kolkata were dispensing cash in Tuesday noon. Kolkata was among the top cities in cash dispensation with the situation being better in only Chandigarh and Thiruvananthapuram. Hyderabad, Bhubaneswar and Patna were at the bottom of the rung.


At Jadavpur in south Kolkata, Jayati Ghosh had a Deja vu when she visited an ATM. “One ATM was out of cash and the other had a huge queue. It reminded me of the terrible times in November and December 2016 when the cash crunch was acute,” she said. In central Kolkata, an ATM near the entrance to the KMC headquarters also ran out of money. Soon, the other ATMs in the locality had huge queues. “A year and a half ago, I had not reacted fast enough. By the time I reached ATMs, they had all run dry. I am not taking any chances,” said trader Animesh Sinha standing in a queue. While a few ATMs run out of money every day and are replenished in a few hours, the rush to withdraw money meant cash vanishing from more ATMs. By evening, a good number of ATMs across the city did not have cash. The average outgo from SBI ATMs in the city is usually Rs 6-7 lakh. For other banks, it is Rs 3-4 lakh. Sources in the banking circles attributed the crisis to the shift from Rs-2,000 notes to Rs-200 notes in ATMs. “The forthcoming panchayat election has fueled demand for cash. Cheaper data has led to spurt in data usage. This has, in turn, led to a drop in connectivity. With digital payment floundering due to data issues, the demand for cash has gone up further,” said another PSU bank official. Ashok Mukherjee, ex-deputy chief secretary of SBI Staff Association, blamed the Centre: “The crisis is intentional and aimed at promoting digital payment controlled by private companies”.



International News



Pakistani police fire gunshots at angry protesters; 1 killed



KARACHI: Pakistani police say they lobbed tear gas and fired gunshots in the air to try to disperse an angry crowd hurling stones at the officers. The violence left one protester dead after a gunshot to the head. The clashes erupted on Tuesday in the port city of Karachi during a demonstration over the disappearance and killing of a 7-year-old girl this week. The protesters accused police of negligence in the case. The police also say 17 people, mostly policemen, were injured in the clashes. Senior police officer Amir Farooq says the girl went missing two days ago and her body was found on Monday in bushes in a western Karachi neighborhood. He says the initial forensics report suggests she was raped before being strangled.



Gunmen attack vehicle, kill 6 civilians in Afghanistan: Official



KABUL: An Afghan official says at least six civilians were shot and killed by gunmen in western Ghor province this morning. Iqbal Nezami, spokesman for the provincial police chief, said that four other civilians were wounded after their vehicle was attacked near Faroz Koh, the provincial capital. The victims were all ethnic Hazaras, a Shia minority in Afghanistan that is frequently targeted by Sunni extremists in different parts of the country. Nezami says the Hazaras were travelling from Herat, another western province, to Ghor when they came under attack. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Both the Taliban and militants from the rival Islamic State terror group are active in Ghor and have previously claimed attacks in the province.

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