Thiruvananthapuram: It was all-round chaos across Kerala, like elsewhere in the country, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday evening announced demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination currency notes.
People were caught unawares and could be seen running around until Wednesday dawn to collect ‘valid currency notes’ from various ATMs in their areas and much beyond. Long queues were seen in front of fuel stations since Tuesday night until early Wednesday. However, after some time, even those operating the fuel stations turned wise by denying fuel to those asking for less than Rs 500 or between Rs 500 and Rs 1,000, as they did not want to part with the currency notes that were still legal tender.
“I tried to give a Rs 1,000 note and asked for petrol for Rs 100 for my scooter, but that was denied and they said they will fill for Rs 500 and return Rs 500 back,” said medical professional V.J. Harris.
Another place where people tried to liquidate their Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes was at railway ticket counters by purchasing either a platform ticket or a ticket to the nearby station, but here too it did not last long as the railway staff also started giving these currency notes to those who came to cancel their tickets.
In the State assembly, Finance Minister Thomas Issac, who on Tuesday night went hammer and tongs at the Centre’s move to demonetise the high denomination currency notes, appeared to have mellowed down. Apparently, this happened after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Issac had a one-to-one meeting before the day’s session began.
He told the House that the State government is not opposed to the withdrawal of these currencies. “We oppose the way it was announced, which has led to a panic among the people. What should have been done is the people should have been taken into confidence. At the moment, the role of the State is not clear. This was an economical surgical strike,” said Issac.
He also pointed out that since the banks are closed today (Wednesday), the State treasury, which is linked to the banks, cannot function. Meanwhile, panic has struck two segments of society — realtors and the film industry. A leading film director, who did not wish to be identified, told IANS that this is an industry where mostly unaccounted money changes hands.
“Films that have started rolling and those in the post-production stages, their fate has to be watched as to how things go from here on. From my experience, it’s going to be tough and the ones that have not started to roll, might not see the light of day for a while now,” said the director.
Likewise, another affected segment are all those who operate in the real estate market.
“Today, every third person you see on the road here is into real estate. They are in real trouble, especially those who have collected money for the sale of their property at a future date, as a huge majority of such sales involve unaccounted money,” said a realtor on condition of anonymity.