Ahmedabad, Apr 17 (PTI) The ongoing cash crunch in Gujarat worsened today with several ATMs and banks running dry, especially in villages and the tribal belts, even though the Centre played down the issue terming it as only “temporary shortages”.

Deputy chief minister Nitin Patel, who is also the state finance minister, acknowledged that banks are facing cash crunch and said the government is in touch with the RBI to ensure enough cash is supplied to banks.

The demand for cash has increased since this is the harvest and marriage season in the state.

Bank officials said they are getting only one-tenth of the required cash leaving them helpless to replenish the ATMs.

This has especially affected farmers involved in cumin business, they said.

It can be noted that several parts of Andhra, Telangana, MP, Bihar and poll-bound Karnataka have been reporting cash shortages at ATMs and banks for some time now, but Union finance minister Arun Jailey today attributed to unusual spurt in demand in the past three months.

Denying that there is any shortage of currency in circulation, Jaitley said the “temporary shortage” in certain states is being “tackled quickly” and that there is “more than adequate” currency in circulation.

“Overall there is more than adequate currency in circulation and also available with the banks. The temporary shortage caused by ‘sudden and unusual increase’ (in demand) in some areas is being tackled quickly,” he Tweeted.

Several ATMs in Ahmedabad and other cities remained dry today, making it difficult for people to get cash for daily needs.

The situation is more acute in rural and tribal areas, bank officials and Opposition political leaders said.

“This is the fourth ATM that I am visited which has a “no cash” board outside. I need cash for business but I am not sure where I will get it,” said an aggrieved Shashikant Sharma outside the Axis Bank branch near the Anjali Crossroad area in Ahmedabad.

“I have to pay the rent and this is the third ATM that I visited since the past two days but none of them had cash,” said another affected person standing outside a Union Bank ATM in Prahlad Nagar locality in the city.

While some banks have put up “no cash” boards outside their ATMs, others have “ATM temporarily out of service” or “ATM under maintenance” boards.

General secretary of Maha Gujarat Bank Employees Association Janak Raval said banks in urban areas are getting only one-tenth of the cash required.

“Rural areas are the worst hit. North Gujarat is badly affected. People involved in cumin trade are helpless as most of their transactions are in cash,” he said.

He said the state has been suffering since the past 10 days, but the matter has aggravated in the past few days.

Congress MLA from Patan Kirit Patel said the farmers are the worst hit. He said has written to the Union finance minister to make available immediately at least Rs 20 crore to banks so that farmers in north Gujarat do not suffer any more.

“This is the marriage season, and also the harvest season, so many people need cash. But since most ATMs and banks are having cash crunch, farmers in great trouble. I have written to the Union Finance Minister to immediately make available Rs 20 crore in north Gujarat area so that farmers do not have to suffer more,” he said.

The state finance minister had on Monday acknowledged that banks were facing cash crunch and he had asked the RBI to address the problem.

“Since the past four-five days, banks in the state are not getting enough cash. I have talked to the regional manager of RBI twice regarding the issue and have also asked the chief secretary to discuss the matter with him and ensure that banks get money. We are constantly in touch with the RBI,” he had said on Monday.

While currency supply increased by Rs 45,000 crore in the first 13 days of April, “unusual spurt in demand” was seen more in some parts of Andhra, Telangana, Karnataka, MP and Bihar, it said.

The RBI report shows that the currency in circulation has reached the pre-demonetisation level of about Rs 17 trillion.

Meanwhile SBI chairman Rajnish Kumar attributed that issue to an “imbalance” due to the crop procurement season in Punjab, MP and UP where there is heightened demand.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.