Lucknow, Dec 1 (IANS) The worst fears of the Uttar Pradesh Police that demonetisation will become a law and order issue is finally turning out to be a scary reality.
With new currency notes still short in stock and people’s patience running thin, there are increasing incidents of scuffles, stone pelting as well as threats being made to bank employees in the state.
Police officials told IANS that mobs had indulged in violence at many places, targeting banks and its staff after being told there was either no cash or low amounts of cash.
One officer called the peace until recently nothing short of a miracle.
In Meerut, hundreds of irate customers went on a rampage at a Syndicate Bank branch on Hapur Road after it ran out of cash.
Dozens of vehicles were damaged, traffic was disrupted and an effigy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was torched.
In the Taj Mahal town of Agra, police used canes on unruly mob outside the Oriental Bank of Commerce’s branch in Kheragarh.
Similar incidents have been reported from Pilibhit and Baghpat districts. A bank manager in Farrukhabad was told telephonically to either dispense cash or face dire consequences.
Inspector General of Police (Lucknow) Satish Ganesh admitted that the demonetisation of 500 and 1,000 rupees notes, which has caused an unprecedented cash crunch across the country, had “opened new and huge challenges” for the police.
“Earlier bank security was a once-a-week affair. Now it is 24×7 job. And we are managing it with limited resources and manpower,” Ganesh said.
The police have so far spared a constable each to each bank branch while ATMs have been left to private security guards.
Cashless ATMs at some places like Kannauj, Kanpur, Unnao, Banda, Etawah, Chitrakoot, Orai, Farrukhabad and Hamirpur have become targets of angry and disappointed mobs.
Thursday’s salary day had increased the problems. Police sources say bank properties have been attacked in Tilokpur, Bibipur Nindura, Lambhua, Utraula and Barabanki.
Additional forces have now been deployed at major banks, a Home Department official said.
Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Daljeet Chowdhary told IANS that he gets 10-15 calls daily from jittery bank officials seeking help.
“We are for now focussed on ensuring that the law and order is not further disturbed,” he added.
The Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and Home Guards have been deployed at some banks for crowd control but they are far outnumbered by the surging crowds.
In Fatehpur, a lone police constable resorted to a cane charge last week to control a mob, only to be suspended after the video footage found its way to social media.
In the next 24 hours, Lucknow banks alone require Rs 10,000 crore for dispensing salaries to state and central government employees whereas the cash available is reportedly nowhere near the demand.
In the regional unit of the Reserve Bank of India in Lucknow, Rs 250 crore has been flown in IAF choppers from the Nashik Security Press which prints currency notes.
(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)