A Day In The Life Of A Banker
A Day In The Life Of A Banker6 mins 392 6 mins 392
It is the demonetisation in Nov 2016 which can be best described as a war chronicle in banking history. The turmoil that bankers came across was no less than the Revolt of 1857 or the likes. The Bankers were only partially trained on the techniques of an armed conflict. The announcement was made late in the night. People discussed about the big move by our Hon’ble Prime Minister. There was a flurry of Whatsapp messages, FB posts and tweets. There were pictures showing how Rs 500 note could be used in lieu of a toilet tissue. There were pictures of pink colour Rs 2000 notes also being circulated on the social media. Every one echoed that Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes were being invalidated and will no longer be of legal tender. They were being replaced by the new Rs 500 and Rs 2000 notes. The demonetized currency comprised of 86% of the currency which is in circulation. I sat up late in the night to understand what all this meant to me. I barely had a couple of Rs 500 notes with me and the rest of the cash was in smaller denominations. But to the ’me’ the banker it meant long working hours. Bankers who already struggled to make ends meet will now stretch their limits.
Nov 9th was a banking holiday; it was a day of bliss but in disguise. We were instructed upon the do’s and don’t’s when the bank reopened on 10th Nov 2016. Everyone seemed to have their own opinion about demonitization. I recall a post by a banker friend in which he wrote he felt like a soldier who would protect his country from the menace of corruption and terrorism. Actually reading many views on social media only confirmed that nobody knew the impact of demonitization. On Nov 10th 2016 morning there were long winding queues before various banks. Even the blockbuster Rajnikant movie would not have garnered as much public in a matter of few hours. That day I saw 2 huge queues before my bank branch too. There were people of all age groups. It seemed like it were a holiday to all the non banking sectors, colleges etc. People had queued up from 6:00 AM in the morning. I walked up to my bank’s entrance; few people were to stop me from tresspassing the queue but ceased to do so when the security guard wished ‘Good morning Mam’. I felt like a celebrity walking down the aisle, so would have been any banker on that day. The moment the door shut behind me there was an eerie silence in the branch. Everyone was preparing for the big rush hour, which would start in 15 mins. At 9:00 AM the bank would open before which the withdrawls counter, the deposit counter and the exchange counters should be made accessible.
I was given the exchange counter to handle. The moment the doors of the branch opened people stormed into the branch. The security guard struggled to prevent mobbing at the counters. People could exchange only Rs 4000 of their old currency till Nov 24th 2016. However, they could deposit any amount of old currency till Dec 30th 2016. The withdrawl limits were also only Rs 4000 per day per person. These limits and the time lines kept changing as per the whims and fancies of the law makers. I sat at my desk and wondered that if 16.5 billion notes were comprised of Rs 500 and 6.7 billion comprised of Rs 1000 how many could have been stashed in currency chests, how many were in circulation and how many would go unnoticed. All my mental calculations came to a standstill when some one at the counter said ‘Madam Exchange’. He had two Rs 1000 Notes which he wanted to exchange. After checking his ID proofs he was directed to the respective counters. We were provided with a module which would capture all details of the customer who would come for exchange or deposit of the old currency. The module which was a software program was developed by the IT team overnight. The whole purpose of the module was to prevent the people from going to another bank branch and doing exchange of an equivalent amount. However there were many bugs in the module developed. Just like the banks were not prepared for this sudden move by the govt, so were our systems. We continued to input data but the systems would hang up after a few entries. Customers would get frustrated waiting for the systems to resume. The queues too kept increasing with more people adding to the existing numbers. The counter which was almost empty by 10:00 AM was the Withdrawl counter. Whatever currency the branch had received from the currency chest was exhausted in no time. Many in that counter had to leave empty-handed, which left them aghast. Some people cursed at this ordeal whereas others wanted to be part of the move which they called ‘war against corruption’. We were at the receiving end.
We lost the count of people we were attending to. I was at my desk keying in details of the nth customer before me. People in banks worked tirlessly for the next 2 days as well which would have otherwise been banking holidays. In fact, bankers left their daily routine jobs and were handling cash. It was around 12:30 PM, I noticed a short guy entering with 2 people. I asked security guard to stop him. After a little while, I saw him walking away with new pink colour Rs 2000 notes. I called the security person to find out why he was allowed. He informed that he had never allowed him. At around 4: 30 PM, I saw the same guy this time he entered with two unidentified people. This time I left my desk and walked upto him. He outrightly denied having come to the bank before. After the squabble, the branch manager thanked me for close monitoring. During this pandemonium, it’s the middle men who cashed in significantly.
We had to deliberately shut the doors as there was no dearth of people entering the bank. The bank staff stayed in bank premises till late night and did all the tallying. All our energy was completely drained out in the day, we were expected to work like this for a few more days without any leave. The weekend had gone by in the bank. Malls, coffee shops and cinema halls all seemed to be deserted as the favourite hangout places in that weekend were various private and public sector banks. For the next few days, bank branches were stashed with huge piles of delegalised currency. The branch teller room looked like a mini currency chest.