GUWAHATI, Nov 18 - Teerachai Janpapho, a tourist from Bangkok, had arrived in Assam on October 28. His vacation went off as planned until November 8 when the sudden decision by the Central government to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes landed him and his companion in a mess in an alien country.
On Thursday, Teerachai alias Tam, was hopping from one bank to another in the city to exchange a bundle of old Rs 500 notes he had procured through exchange of currency after landing in India.
When they landed up at the office of a manager of a Union Bank branch at Ganeshguri, they were asked to provide photocopies of their passports, identity proofs and their phone numbers. The manager fed their phone number in his computer only to find that Tam had already exchanged Rs 4,500 worth old denomination notes � the earlier limit � after November 8. �You have already exchanged once. You can�t do it again,� the manager told the visitors.
�Yeah�but we did in a different bank,� a bewildered Tam replied, prompting the manager to explain the decisions announced by the government.
Tam and his companion were carrying over Rs 20,000 in cash � all Rs 500 denomination notes. They told The Assam Tribune that they had visited the exchange counter at the airport but it was closed. �No one is taking these notes. Not even the taxis. We don�t have an account here to deposit it either,� they said in anguish.
Seeing their distress, the manager offered Rs 2,000 from his own pocket in exchange of four old Rs 500 notes they had. Another customer, who overheard the conversation, also gave five Rs 100 notes in exchange of an old note 500 note.
Scores of tourists in the State and elsewhere in the country are facing similar hardships in the wake of the demonetisation of high denomination notes. Most of them were carrying a huge amount of cash, all in Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination.
Most foreign tourists were also unaware of the government decision and its intricacies. They also faced a problem exchanging currency due to the queues in banks and most ATMs remaining shut. The tourist season is at its peak from October to January.
Meanwhile, acute shortage of 100 rupee notes continued in Guwahati.
A bulk of the ATMs were dispensing only Rs 2,000 notes, prompting people to stay away from them as it was difficult to use it given the shortage of small notes in the market.
Those few dispensing small currency notes witnessed long queues.
Technical snags were also reported in many ATMs as many machines remained shut throughout the day.
Banks also reported shortage of small currency notes.
�Yesterday, the RBI did not give even a single Rs 100 note to our branch. Today, we got some, but there is a huge shortage. People are reluctant to take the Rs 2,000 notes. We are giving bundles of Rs 20 and Rs 50 notes and mixing them with the bigger notes,� a manager of a UCO bank branch at Dispur said.
Due to the non-availability of small notes, the length of the queues in the banks has also shortened.
Noting the shortage of small notes, the SBI has started giving change of Rs 2,000 notes to people through its mobile cash vans from today. The SBI is operating six such vans, mostly in market areas of Dispur, Ganeshguri, Bhangagarh, Beltola and Zoo Road.
SBI officials said the Rs 500 notes are expected to arrive in the State in a day or two and the situation would ease after that.
In a statement last night, the SBI had said a total of 175 ATMs have been calibrated to dispense Rs 2000 notes in the city. The SBI is also operating 12 ATMs at 10 locations in the city to dispense cash 24x7 without cash-out position.