The Centre on Friday said that people can pay their public utility bills with old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes till November 14. However, one can only clear arrears or current bills and no advance payments will be accepted. These notes will also be accepted at railway ticket counters, fuel stations etc. Earlier, the deadline was set to expire on Friday midnight.
Besides this, no toll will be levied on national highways till November 14, said Union Minister of Road Transport Nitin Gadkari. The government has also decided that payment for court fees will be included in exemptions and that identity cards of customers will be required for transactions in consumer cooperative stores.
Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank of India asked the public to be patient, as millions thronged ATMs and banks to withdraw/deposit cash and exchange old notes for new ones. “There is enough cash available with banks and all arrangements have been made to distribute the currency notes all over the country,” said the RBI in a statement. But reports said that most of the ATM kiosks ran out of cash on Friday and many of these are yet to be reconfigured to disburse new notes.
ATMs reported serpentine queues on Thursday and Friday, as banks were closed on Wednesday. Most machines reportedly ran out of money soon after they opened this morning. Two people in Maharashtra and one in Kerala died during the rush to replace the now-illegal currency notes, PTI reported.
The Income Tax department has instructed banks to notify it of deposits of over Rs 2.5 lakh, while earlier, banks would have to inform it of transactions exceeding Rs 10 lakh. The department had also conducted several raids in Delhi and Mumbai on Thursday to uncover stashes of black money. I-T officials have also reportedly raided homes and offices of producers of the film Baahubali in Hyderabad.
Surprise from the Centre
Narendra Modi, in an unexpected address to the nation on Tuesday, had announced that the country was doing away with Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in an effort to weed out corruption, black money and in turn poverty and terrorism. Modi said that the government believed the time had come to “take a strong decision” on tackling such problems, suggesting that counterfeit notes from across the border were being used to fund terrorism in India.
The Centre has said there are no plans to demonetise the current Rs 100 notes, and that new Rs 1,000 notes will be issued in a few months.
Criticism from the Opposition
The Centre’s decision to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes did not go down well with many in the political and business circles. Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati on Thursday called the move selfish and questioned its timing. “If they really wanted to curb black money then why did they take this decision after two years,” she said. She said the Bharatiya Janata Party government had created an Emergency-like situation to “hide their inefficiency” ahead of the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. Mayawati said that only people from Gujarat and Mumbai would benefit from the initiative.