When Rahul Gupta found a sum of Rs 8,000 lying around in his house earlier this year, he let his little son play around with it. It wasn’t because he had lots of money to spare, but the fact that the small stack of currency notes was now worthless to him.
Gupta had found the notes days after the government stopped the exchange of demonetised notes at banks. Though a window remained open at select RBI offices, it catered only to NRIs and Indians who could prove that they were abroad between November 8 and December 31, 2016.
Gupta finds little comfort in the knowledge that there are many others like him across the country.
Segu Venkateshwara Rao has Rs 2.28 lakh in scrapped currency notes of Rs 1,000. The money was stolen from his jewellery shop at Vijaywada in 2009. Eight years after filing an FIR and then fighting the case in court, Rao finally got the money on March 3, 2017. The RBI refused to even entertain his case.
Manish Pathania, a 40-year-old businessman from Kullu, was luckier – though he wouldn’t say so himself. In the days after demonetisation was announced, there were reports of brokers who exchange old notes for new in return for a hefty fee. Pathania turned to one such broker after he found Rs 36,000 in old notes stashed in a cupboard at his Noida flat.
“When the RBI flatly refused to help, I narrated the incident to a friend. He directed me to the broker, who paid me a measly Rs 15 for every 100-rupee note,” bemoaned Pathania.
However, there are others like Naresh Chauhan who would envy Pathania. The local builder from Kothkai in Shimla recovered Rs 50,000 from his coat pocket in the third week of December. He still had time to deposit the money, but the heavy snowfall kept him from reaching the nearest bank.
Dinesh Kumar Dhiman, also from Shimla, has a a similar story to tell. “I put off my trip till the last week of December, but that was also when it began snowing heavily. There was no way I could get to the bank in that situation,” he said, hoping that the government would give him another opportunity to deposit demonetised notes.
Then, there are those such as Garima Jain, a housewife from Raipur, who regularly took siphoned off money from her husband’s wallet to feed her piggy bank. When demonetisation kicked in, Garima had to confess to her husband, but it was too late already. They are now stuck with Rs 30,000 in scrapped notes.
Their anxiety is understandable. Besides losing the money, they fear being apprehended by authorities because holding over 10 notes of scrapped currency is now considered a crime. Under the Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Ordinance-2016, no one can legally keep the scrapped currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 after December 31, 2016.
(With inputs from Gaurav Bisht in Shimla)