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New Delhi: Chaos and confusion were reported from several parts of Delhi on the first day of exchange of Rs 2,000 currency notes on Tuesday with people complaining that banks were instead asking to deposit them and also demanding identity proofs. While the notes will still be considered legal tender, people have been instructed to either deposit existing Rs 2,000 notes in their bank accounts or exchange them at the banks.

The first day of the process saw long queues, disgruntled customers and growing concerns among elderly citizens. Though the exchange or deposit facility will be available till September 30, people rushed to the banks in significant numbers on the first day itself.

The punishing heatwave sweeping through Delhi exacerbated the situation, making it particularly challenging for the elderly, who complained of having to wait for hours. Tempers flared, and heated arguments erupted between the people and staff members at Punjab National Bank’s Lajpat Nagar branch.

“The authorities should have anticipated the immense inconvenience this would cause. Standing in this scorching heat is taking a toll on us, especially the elderly,” Shivani Gupta said while standing in a queue at the branch.

People faced hurdles even when attempting to use Rs 2,000 notes at petrol pumps. Many people complained that while ATMs continue to dispense Rs 2,000 notes, fuel stations were refusing to accept them and seeking payment through online transactions.

“I tried to refuel my car at the nearby petrol pump, but they refused to accept my Rs 2,000 notes. They insisted on digital transactions through mobile apps. This is a hassle for those of us who rely on cash for our daily transactions,” a motorist alleged.

Several banks reportedly refused to exchange Rs 2,000 notes, directing customers to deposit them instead due to lower cash retention limits. Frustration mounted as people also complained about banks demanding identity proofs despite the government’s promise that no such documents would be required.

“There is confusion as some people are being asked to deposit the money in their accounts. Exchange is being denied. This development has left people feeling cheated and disillusioned. We expected a smooth exchange process,” Rajender Singh, a retired government employee, said.

“The banks should have been better prepared for this situation. They should have made proper arrangements to accommodate the exchange of Rs 2,000 notes instead of simply asking us to deposit them,” another disgruntled customer standing in a queue said.

“It’s extremely frustrating. I hardly keep cash with me and prefer making payments online. However, my wife prefers cash payments. She takes tuition for primary class students at home,” said Manoj Gupta, who was at ICICI bank in Lajpat Nagar to exchange Rs 2,000 notes.

“When the news of the withdrawal came out, she thought of purchasing some household items, but later, we decided to get the notes exchanged so that her savings are retained,” he said. At wholesale vegetable markets, sellers complained that people were using Rs 2,000 notes in larger numbers than before.

“You could not even see Rs 2,000 currency notes earlier. Since the government announced the decision to withdraw them, everyone is trying to get rid of the notes as soon as they can,” a vegetable wholesaler at the Azadpur market said.

Outside the RBI building on Parliament Street, an on-duty security guard said: “About 25 people have come so far to get their Rs 2,000 notes exchanged. It’s going on smoothly so far, and each person is being attended to today in quick succession,” he said. The Reserve Bank of India, while citing its “Clean Note Policy” as the reason behind the withdrawal, has stated that the Rs 2,000 denomination is not commonly used for transactions.

The intention behind the withdrawal is to remove damaged, counterfeit or soiled notes from circulation, especially those with a lack of usage. The RBI believes that the stock of banknotes in other denominations is more than sufficient to meet the currency requirements of the public.

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