India must thank its bankers

Since Modi surprised the country with the most extreme decision of Demonetization, bankers are on their heels.
India must thank its bankers
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It is said that Banks are the blood vessels of an economy. The following figures make one believe in the saying. Since November 9, more than Rs 2 Lac Crore have been deposited in Banks across the country. Against this enormous volume, an amount of  Rs 10 Thousand Crores have been withdrawn. This is excluding the amount of money exchanged by people which stands at a staggering Rs …………. The 'Demonetization bombshell' exploded by Modi has put the whole country in problem and chaos. Except him and his 'Babus'—who do not have to worry about cash to be used for food, traveling, etc since they get all daily needs free of cost from the Government and out of the hard-earned taxpayers' money— everybody else  is suffering; general public and bankers being the worst sufferers.

Since Modi surprised the country with the most extreme decision of Demonetization, bankers are on their heels. Huge crowds have been thronging the Bank premises since Friday. Unmanageable queues, angry public, and acute cash shortage have been some of the obvious problems that banks have been facing for the last few days. This extreme workload has compelled bankers to remain on duty till midnight. Some of the busy branches had to arrange night shifts too. Bank off-days falling on Saturday and Sunday, i.e November 12 & 13, were cancelled. In some places like Haryana, Banks were open even on the preponed holiday of Gurupurab. Similarly, JK Bank branches designated for Payment of Utility Bills remained open on Monday. Dealing with such a sudden chaotic economic situation that led to a manifold increase in the footfall of people in banks is not an easy task. There are issues with regard to the infrastructural preparedness, security to the staff and the branch premises and so on. There were incidents of scuffle between bank officials and public. The angry public doesn't understand that there are cash constraints and that there is not enough cash that could be distributed among people against the old and defunct Rs 1000 & 500 notes.

Apparently, it looks like Banks have to open their Vaults and distribute cash. But, people should understand that there is a Standard Cash Limit (SCL) that branches have to strictly adhere to; they can't store cash beyond this limit. What went behind the scene after Modi's shocking announcement is incredible. The system administrators of all Banks had to inform each staff member about the scheme. They had to issue official communications regarding the same. What happened on the next day is out of imagination. The next day Banks had to empty their ATMs of all the Old Denomination Notes (ODN) and perform necessary electronic operations to reset all their machines. At the same time, all banks had to communicate a myriad of reports to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) regarding the amount of Cash held by them. In the meanwhile, the Information Technology Wings of all Banks had to develop a software package for the exchange of old notes with the new one. It is worth mentioning here that this package had to be developed with such an integration that it detects the amount of cash already exchanged by a person from any bank branch. It had to be developed in such a way that it successfully uses and synchronizes the information like PAN number, AADHAR number, etc. All these things had to be created overnight. Similarly, the Core Banking Software which a Bank uses to carry out day to day financial transactions had to be instructed suitably so as to restrict the withdrawals as per the instructions from RBI. All this was a Herculean task with limitations arising every now and then. It was an altogether new set of tasks put before every banker; just like first-time-experience for a newly recruited staff. In an ideal situation, staff may have been trained appropriately to be able to work and adapt to the changed set of tasks.

After the successful implementation of these 'Note Exchange Packages', bankers are facing a new challenge. Now, ATMs have to be recalibrated so  that the new currency, with new features, different size and denomination, gets dispensed successfully. This means that ATMs have to be modified in such a way that the facility to dispense new currency notes has to be put in. This is going to be a complicated technical operation. 

All this is way difficult and complicated than what appears to the person who comes yelling at the bank official without giving a thought to what bankers have been going through since the decision of Demonetization so that people don't have any problem. Bankers have stood up to the challenge sacrificing their holidays, skipping their lunch and dinner in service of people; even lower management staff were sharing  the burden of a Relationship Executive. There are cashiers who have been continuously facing a cash mismatch at the day-end and eventually filling up the shortage out of their own pockets and this shortage ranges between Rs 2000 to even 50000. No matter whether they are paid for this overtime or not, nothing can make up for the suffering they have been through. People too should think about it; you should return the excess cash mistakenly handed over to you by the cashier. It's comprehensible that there are problems, but, the next time you think of shouting at the bank official, think once what he and his team have been going through. Despite all the challenges, issues, problems and constraints, bankers have proved that they are the channels without which no monetary flow can be made possible; my dear shouting and complaining friends, give them the respect and honour that they deserve. India, at this point of time, should thank its bankers!

(The author is MBA, NET, IBPS. He is Scale I Officer in a leading PSU Bank. The views are personal & not of the organisation he works for)

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