The morning after the Government suddenly demonetized Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, chaos prevailed on the roads and at petrol stations, drug stores, and retail and wholesale markets as virtually all daily cash transactions choked up in Mumbai on Wednesday.
Morning commuters rushing to their place of work experienced the first impact of the decision as they frantically ran about trying to secure change for Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes as three-wheeler and four-wheeler cabbies refused to accept these.
24-hour pharmacies and retail petrol stations had an unending stream of customers offering big notes for conducting small value transactions, putting a severe strain on their stocks of Rs 100, Rs 50, Rs 20 and Rs 10 notes and coins.
“I exhausted over Rs 60,000 worth in small notes in one hour – usually that is my fortnight’s stock. The crowds don’t stop coming. Where will I get more change?” rued the manager of a pharmacy chain in Kandivali in north-west Mumbai.
The wholesale fresh fruits and vegetables market in Navi Mumbai experienced piling up of these perishable goods as most wholesalers turned up with the banned currency notes.
“We are asking the banks to allow us to accept these notes and cooperate in exchanging them later. Failing this the huge quantities of fresh goods which came from farms will perish and the farmers and traders could incur losses worth crores of rupees,” said an official.
Uproarious scenes were also witnessed at petrol pumps as customers offered the demonetized notes for small value transactions though many opted for credit/debit card transactions.
The situation was compounded as all banks and ATMs remained shut on Wednesday.
Massive traffic snarls were witnessed at all entry and exit points of Mumbai, the Mumbai-Pune Expressway and other toll roads as the toll contractors refused to accept high value notes and did not permit vehicles to cross over to the other side.
Alarmed by the growing anger among the crowds, one toll post – Khalapur on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway – allowed vehicles toll-free, at least for Wednesday.
People encountered similar problems for daily routines like ordering food and beverages, either online, or in restaurants or at take-away counters as well as railway and bus stations.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra government has convened a high-level meeting later on Wednesday to discuss the fallout of the Government’s decision on the masses.