The day’s trail to know the impact of the sudden demonetisation of Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 currency notes had just begun.
Time was 10.48 a.m. on Wednesday.
Sitting in his nondescript vegetable shop near the entrance to the normally bustling Kaloor market, Jamaal wore a confused look.
Just a while ago a couple of his trusted clients had paid in Rs.500 notes on shopping. “They were regulars and could not be turned away unlike people who came in the guise of customers looking for change. The real impact will be known only by Thursday when suppliers return after today’s [Thursday] motor strike,” he said.
At his abattoir a few metres away, Shiraas continued to accept ‘banned’ notes. “We have no black money to hide and therefore can change these notes at the bank. Business is already bad, and we can’t afford to turn our customers away citing the note issue,” he said.
At Saritha theatre, moviegoers had to check their wallets for Rs.100 or lower denomination notes. “No question of accepting bigger notes as they are no longer legal tender,” Sethunath, theatre manager, put it bluntly.
There was a minor melee during the previous night’s second show. Alerted to the withdrawal of Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes, spectators started crowding the eatery with notes, Mathew, a ticket counter staff, recalled. At his roadside kiosk near the theatre, Noufal sat idling away his time. With just three Rs.100 notes in his cash box, he could neither buy fresh stock nor do any business. He had to turn away quite a few customers who had come with banned notes.
It was 11.22 a.m., and Benjamin looked around his deserted medical shop, which usually teems with customers. With the business having been hit, he had already started accepting cards for as low a purchase as Rs.10.
Anand, an employee at the Supplyco-run petrol pump near Durbar Hall Ground, expected more trouble as motorists streamed in. The lower denomination notes had literally exhausted, and customers were agitated over the failure of the outlet to tender balance. “We told them they could fill petrol for Rs.500 or Rs.1,000, but for anything less, we insisted that they give change,” he said. At just past 12 noon, the “note issue” dominated the chat between staff and passengers at the Ernakulam KSRTC depot. “Some depots had started exhibiting placards declaring that Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes were not accepted, though we haven’t done it as yet,” said station master Viswambaran.
At Bevco’s self-serving premium outlet just a stone’s throw away beyond the A.L. Jacob flyover, employees had a leisurely day. With a board kept outside declaring that Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes and credit/debit cards were not accepted, sales were reduced to a trickle at the outlet, which usually logs a daily business of over Rs.10 lakh.
Shiju had been operating the automatic ticket vending machine at the eastern entry of the south railway station for hours by the time the clock ticked past 12.30 p.m. He held Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes in one hand as if they were a testimony to his helplessness. “Passengers can either wait till enough change is collected to get the balance on buying tickets, or they can give change,” he said and passengers seem convinced.