It has been almost a month since Prime Minister Modi made the announcement about demonetisation on November 8. With hardly 25 days left for the Dec 31 deadline to deposit 500 and 1000 rupee notes, it seems as though life has come to a standstill for everyone. Though many individuals and businesses are now going cashless and people who did not visit banks at all are opening accounts, there is one consequence that bothers me. Why are there such long lines outside ATMs and banks? Every day on the way back home, I see people standing in lines – inside banks, outside ATMS, and to use public toilets. Curious to know which of these lines would move faster, I decided to stand in all three.
I begin this experiment by heading to my bank to deposit some money into my savings account. I expected to receive special treatment because I have been a regular customer at this particular branch for three years, but this does not happen. I am handed a pink-coloured form with a token number and am politely asked to stand in line.
With more than 10 people standing in front of me, I know that this task will take quite a while. This gives me enough time to observe people at the bank. I notice the cashier standing up to take a short break from the pressure of work. She opens her lunch box and eats a bite. Then, she quietly goes back to her seat and sips on coffee. She collects the cash from customers and repeats this routine all over again. I begin to wonder what life will be like for the bank staff till December 31.
The cashier goes about her work so effortlessly that her hands easily alternate between holding a coffee mug to punching the keys on her keyboard and stamping slips. On my right, there is a couple counting 500 rupee notes. While the husband fills out the form and holds the cash in his hand, his wife used her palm as a notepad and her fingers as a calculator.
A few metres ahead at the cash withdrawal counter, I witness a few people sharing a laugh. It seems as though they are long-lost friends and demonetisation has reunited them. As I approach the counter, I witness a shocking scene.
The customer standing at the counter has come with 22 notes of the banned 1000 rupee denomination. The woman sitting behind the counter notices something fishy when she passes the notes through the currency counting machine and when she counts them manually. She picks out one of these notes and draws an X over it. She tells the man that it is a fake note. And the problems doesn’t end here; it seems that the youngster has gotten his account number wrong because he wrote it in haste.
It has been more than 15 minutes now, and my legs are beginning to hurt. But I decide that the money is worth the wait. After about 15 minutes, my turn finally comes and it takes hardly two minutes for the cashier to deposit my money and hand over the stamped slip to me.
With no cash in my wallet, I decide to visit the ATM located just below my office. It is 3:50 p.m. as I stand in line with more than 22 people standing in front of me and six people standing behind me. The line moves slowly and steadily, and everyone is getting anxious. I see a man coming out of the ATM. He tells me that it is dispensing only 2000 rupee notes. The clock strikes 4:05 p.m., and there are still 12 people standing ahead of me.
This part of the experiment really takes a toll on me. At 4:18 p.m., my prayers are finally answered. Now, there are only five people ahead of me and over 20 people standing behind me. Finally, I entered the ATM at 4:26 p.m., and within two minutes, I walk out with a 2000 rupee note in my wallet. This happy moment comes after 40 minutes of standing in queue and exhausting myself.
Now, I finish the last leg of this experiment. I go to a public toilet to relieve myself. The line seemed short; there were only five people standing in front of me. But with time, 10 more people join the line after me. The line moves swiftly and smoothly as people take hardly a minute to finish their business.
This task takes the least time despite the fact that the toilet services were free of cost because it was Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s death anniversary. I am out of the toilet in less than two minutes.
Demonitisation has truly changed the way the city functions. This experiment shows that as of this month, it takes more time to deposit and withdraw money than it does to visit a public toilet!