Shock as India scraps 500 and 1,000 rupee bank notes

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Cii Radio| Ayesha Ismail| 09 November 2016| 08 Safar 1438

The surprise announcement by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that all 500- and 1,000-rupee notes will be scrapped has been met with shock.

Indian media described the move variously as a “surgical strike” on tax evaders in the country’s overwhelmingly cash economy and a “big bang note”.

On Tuesday there were serpentine queues at ATMs as people tried to withdraw 100 rupee notes, which are still legal.
Banks and ATM machines were shut on Wednesday.

The surprise move, announced on Tuesday evening, is part of a crackdown on corruption and illegal cash holdings. New 500 and 2,000 rupee denomination notes will be issued to replace those removed from circulation.

The most affected are likely to be small traders, vendors and labourers but newspapers were quick to point out that India’s wedding season, due to start in a few days, will also be hit hard.

“Black money and corruption are the biggest obstacles in eradicating poverty,” Mr Modi said in his address. He said that the move would “cause some hardship” but asked people to “ignore” it, calling the step a “celebration of honesty”.

People will be able to exchange their old notes for new ones at banks over the next 50 days but they will no longer be legal tender. There are also going to be limits on cash withdrawals from ATMs starting on Thursday.

The move is designed to lock out money that is unaccounted for – known as “black money ” – which may have been acquired corruptly, or be being withheld from the tax authorities.

Finance Secretary Shaktikant Das warned people with large stashes of hidden cash that banks would closely monitor the exchange of old notes for new ones.

How long have people got to change their old notes?
The 500 and 1,000 rupee notes are the highest denomination notes in the country and are extremely common in India. Airports, railway stations and hospitals will only accept them until 11 November. People will be able to exchange their money at banks between 10 November and 30 December.

How much ‘black money’ is there in circulation?
Correspondents say the issue of “black money” is a huge problem in India. The idea here is to lock out money that is unaccounted for and make it visible for tax purposes – banks will be happy to exchange a few thousand rupees, but will be asking questions of those who turn up with hundreds of thousands or millions in currency.

Is there a limit on the amount an individual or household can cash in?
It seems not. An individual can put as much as he or she likes into the bank – but withdrawals are limited so the banking system may end up being flooded with cash.

Government guidelines say it is possible to exchange 4,000 rupees – but it is not clear if this is per day or in total. If there is a legitimate explanation for the cash, the authorities say, it will be possible to exchange it.

Source – BBC news