Taking time to reset ATMs for new notes: Arun Jaitley

NEW DELHI: Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has appealed to the people not to be in a hurry to visit banks to exchange their cash, and called for patience for the normalization of all manner of banking operations. He also rubbished allegations that deposits had spiked before the demonetisation announcement as some parties had been informed beforehand.

He said the crowd at banks over the past few days has been hundreds of times larger than the number of people who visit the banks for regular business. “There are 14 lakh crore rupees in circulation. We knew at the outset that the replacement of this much currency cannot happen overnight. There is enough cash to meet all needs now. It is a massive operation, and it has only begun,” he said.

He said it could take two to three weeks for all ATMs across the country to recalibrated to be able to dispense the new Rs 2000 notes. Till then, ATMs that have not been re-calibrated will continue to dispense Rs 100 notes.

“The recalibration could not be done before the announcement, in view of the secrecy that was required till the Cabinet decision was made. If we had started the process of recalibration before, we would have risked a leak of the information, which would have rendered the whole exercise pointless,” said Jaitley, in response to questions over why the ATMs could not have been prepared beforehand.

Jaitley said the State Bank of India (SBI) and its family of banks, which form 25 to 30 percent of all banking operations in India, have serviced 2.28 crore transactions in two-and-a-half days. SBI has also serviced 54,370 crore monetary transactions, and received deposits worth a whopping Rs 47,868 crore.

Jaitley pointed out that these numbers are only for the SBI and its family of banks and the banking industry as a whole is likely to see about five times these numbers.

“The idea of this demonetisation is to bring money into the banking system, so it can become part of the banking system. Till now, SBI has exchanged currency for 58 lakh individuals. 33 lakh people have withdrawn. Deposits are much higher,” he said.

Jaitley also addressed the politicking over the move. “Many different kinds of political reactions have come in. Some of them have been irresponsible. The effort to clean up politics is causing inconvenience to some,” he said.

He then responded to allegations made earlier in the day by AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal. The Delhi CM had claimed that deposits had risen in the July-September quarters after successive quarters of decline, as PM Narendra Modi had informed his friends before making the announcement so they could save their money.

“One irresponsible statement said some might have had prior information as July-September deposits have grown. Deposits have spiked only in one month, in September. And that was because Pay Commission arrears were released between August 31 and September 15. All the rest has been consistent. But on this, a conspiracy theory has been created,” Jaitley said.