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India Is Low on Cash

New Delhi, India —(Map)

Many people trying to get money out of ATMs in India recently have been out of luck. The banks do not seem to have enough money to keep their ATMs filled. The problem is worse in some areas of India, but the problem is reminding many people of huge problems they had in 2016.

ATM with "No Cash" sign.
Many ATMs in India have run out of cash.
(Source: Jyothisthaliath, from Wikimedia Commons.)

In 2016, India ran out of cash. Cash means printed money or coins. In November of that year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi went on TV. He told people in India that much of the cash they had would not be any good after midnight that very night.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
(Source: Norbert Schiller/World Economic Forum, via Wikimedia Commons.)

India’s money is called the rupee. 1,000 rupees is worth about $15. The government said that the 500 rupee note and the 1,000 rupee note could not be used any more.

People across India were worried about losing their money. They went to the bank to change their old bank notes for new ones, but the lines were very, very long.

People waiting in line at the bank.
People waiting in line at the bank.
(Source: Stan Dalone, via Wikimedia Commons.)

Banks did not have enough cash. The problems continued for a long time, even though the government created a new 500 rupee note and a larger 2,000 rupee note.

The new Indian 2,000-rupee note has not solved the problem.
The new Indian 2,000-rupee note has not solved the problem.
(Source: Wikimedia Commons.)

The government thought that changing the money would stop people from doing things that were against the law. They also wanted people to start paying for things using digital payments. That means paying with credit cards, debit cards, or by using apps on phones or computers. The government would like more information about how much people are buying and selling so that they can collect tax.

But people in India don’t seem very interested in digital payments. In India, most people do not have regular jobs. They may earn money selling things by the side of the road. They may do different jobs every day in order to earn money. People who earn money this way are usually paid in cash. When the banks don’t have cash, it hurts these people the most.

Many people in India are paid in cash for doing work or selling things.
Many people in India are paid in cash for doing work or selling things.
(Source: Biswarup Ganguly, from Wikimedia Commons.)

People are still trying to figure out exactly why the banks in these states have run out of cash. If the problem carries on, it could add new problems for Prime Minister Modi. Already, workers at some banks are talking about going on strike. They are tired of having to explain why people can’t get their money from the bank.

The good news is that this time the problem does not seem to be all over India. But in some states, such as Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, it has been hard to find cash. One person said he went to over 50 ATMs before he found one that could give him some money.

New Delhi, India


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