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indian rupee notes

Indians have until the end of December 30 to deposit discontinued 500 and 1,000 rupee notes in bank and post office accounts, or risk their money becoming worthless.

Last month, the Indian government scrapped the 500 and 1000 rupee notes to crack down on undeclared money and fake cash.

The move divided opinion, especially over how the ban was implemented.

Deadlines for spending the notes or swapping them for new currency have already passed.

Some people, including those of Indian origin living abroad, will be able to exchange the notes in branches of the country’s central bank until March 31, 2017 – but the process will be more complicated than going to a regular bank.

Image source Reuters

Parliament is preparing laws that will make it a criminal offence to hold the old notes from April 1, 2017 onwards.

PM Narendra Modi announced that the notes were no longer legal tender on November 8, sparking panic.

Together the 500 and 1,000 rupee notes represented 86% of the currency in circulation and there have been chaotic scenes in India ever since, with people having to spend hours queuing outside banks and cash machines which have been running out of money.

ATM queues and cash withdrawal limits mean getting currency can still be tricky, and there have been several changes of the rules around how much money people can access or deposit.

India’s government hopes the measures will encourage more people to have bank accounts and move towards a society less reliant on cash.

However, there are concerns that many poorer people and those in rural areas have yet to get bank accounts.

Local companies which allow people to make digital payments both online and in stores have reported a surge in transactions as people look for cashless alternatives.

The government says the move has been a success with the banks flush with cash and significant increases in tax collection.

However, critics argue the move has failed to root out corruption and unearth illegal cash, since most of the money in circulation has been put back into the financial system. Instead, they say, the economy, which was growing at a rapid pace, has slowed down significantly.

Thousands of Indians have demonstrated in a number of cities against the government’s ban on two major currency notes.

Earlier this month, the 500 and 1,000 rupee notes were banned overnight, causing chaos as people lined up at banks to exchange their old currency.

India’s PM Narendra Modi has defended the decision saying it was an anti-corruption measure.

However, opposition parties say the move was mishandled.

Last week, they stalled parliament and demanded Narendra Modi should apologize for the decision.

Image source Reuters

Image source Reuters

Correspondents say it is unclear how much public momentum a day of protests will generate as many Indians have supported the move, despite the inconvenience it has caused them.

Most opposition parties said they would participate in the so-called “day of rage”.

A number of important regional leaders – like the chief ministers of Bihar and Orissa – refused to back the protests, saying Narendra Modi’s attempts to curb corruption should be welcomed.

Protest rallies have been held in the cities of Lucknow, Kolkata and Bangalore.

The southern state of Kerala and the eastern state of Tripura, both ruled by the Communists, saw a near total shutdown.

“We are protesting against the undeclared financial emergency imposed by the government and the hardships people across the country are facing because of this illegal decision,” Manish Tiwari of the Congress party told the AFP news agency.

“The decision to demonetize high-value currency was done without any authority and legislation and is clearly illegal.”

About 90% of India’s transactions are in cash and many people do not have a bank account. The two banned notes accounted for about 86% of the cash in circulation.

In his first national address since the government banned the notes, Narendra Modi called on November 27 for people to embrace digital payments and use less cash.

Last week, former PM Manmohan Singh said the government’s move to ban the much-used banknotes was “monumental mismanagement”, and that India’s gross domestic product would fall “by about 2%” because of the move.

Narendra Modi announced that 500 and 1,000 rupee notes were no longer legal tender as part of a crackdown on corruption on November 8.

There have been chaotic scenes in India ever since. People have spent hours queuing outside banks and cash machines which often run out of money.

In some instances the police have had to be called in to manage queues of anxious customers trying to access legal tender.

Indians have queued up outside banks across the country to exchange 500 and 1,000 rupee notes after they were withdrawn as part of anti-corruption measures.

People will be able to exchange their old notes, which stopped being legal tender at midnight on November 8, for new ones at banks until December 30.

The surprise move is part of a government crackdown on corruption and illegal cash holdings.

Banks were shut on November 9 to allow them enough time to stock new notes.

There are also limits on cash withdrawals from ATMs.

Image source The Hindu

Image source The Hindu

There were chaotic scenes outside banks in Mumbai and Delhi.

Some banks extended working hours to deal with the rush, and have hired extra staff on a temporary basis.

Meanwhile, Indian social media has been talking of little else.

The top trend on Twitter India has been #CashCleanUp with tweets ranging from the frustrated to the humorous, as many people came to terms with the fact that much of their day would be spent in queues.

New 2,000 (about $30) and 500 rupee denomination notes with new security features are being given to people to replace those removed from circulation.

A new 1,000 rupee note “with a new dimension and design” will also be introduced in due course, a senior government official said on November 10.

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

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

According to the government, the move will flush out tax evaders and that all old notes deposited in banks will be subjected to tax laws.