95% ATMs recalibrated, but here’s why the cash crunch is continuing2 min read . Updated: 08 Dec 2016, 01:46 PM IST
Banks are routing cash from RBI to their own branches to meet requirements of their customers, instead of making cash available at ATMs
Mumbai: In the banks, actually, although, to be fair, there isn’t enough of cash to go around.
So, three weeks after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) set up a task force under deputy governor S.S. Mundra to recalibrate and reactivate all ATMs to dispense cash, banks are yet to activate these machines.
Of the 200,000-odd ATMs in the country, 95% have been recalibrated to accept and dispense the new currency notes that have replaced the high-value banknotes rendered invalid on 8 November.
But only 35% of the recalibrated cash machines are operational. The reason: banks are routing cash to their own branches to meet the requirement of their customers instead of making cash available at ATMs.
With the government scrapping Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes, the main agenda of the RBI task force was to quickly reactivate all ATMs after ensuring they were capable of storing and dispensing the new Rs500 and Rs2,000 notes in a phased manner.
“ATMs play a vital role in meeting the currency requirements of the public and have become a major channel for disbursement of cash. Reactivation of ATMs extends the availability and disbursal of notes for the customers of banks at convenient time and location in judicious mix of higher and lower denominations," the central bank had said on 14 November.
Banks have made it a priority to stock up their own branches, which have a higher withdrawal limit of Rs24,000 per account. ATMs can dispense Rs2,500 per card a day.
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“RBI did take efforts to supply cash. But it was not enough. Given the limited supply of cash, banks routed it to their own branches to serve their customers first. If loaded in ATM, any customer of any bank can walk to that ATM and withdraw cash. Every bank wanted to give priority to their own customers," said Ramaswamy Venkatachalam, managing director, Fidelity Information Services, a fintech services firm.
According to bankers, ATMs that were replenished with Rs15-20 lakh per day now barely get Rs2-3 lakh. The limited supply of new Rs500 notes and hoarding of Rs100 notes could be the reason behind few notes finding their way to ATMs. For banks, it is also no longer viable to replenish ATMs as RBI has asked them waive all transaction charges. Before demonetization, banks charged a transaction fee if a customer performed more than five transactions on their ATM network.
Industry experts say reactivating ATMs is the only way to restore normalcy after the disruption caused by demonetization. “Pump all cash into ATMs so that it eases (the) huge pressure and it will also communicate a strong message to (the) market that cash is available," said Navroze Dastur, managing director, NCR India, a fintech firm.
People have also complained about most ATMs only giving out Rs2,000 notes. That’s because most of the Rs100 and Rs500 notes are being cornered by banks ’ own customers, leaving mostly Rs2,000 notes to be supplied through the ATMs, said a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified.