[Long queue outside Dena Bank, Malegaon branch. Majority of those standing in queue are labourers working in powerloom units. (Photo: ummid.com)]
Malegaon: On Thursday, some 36 hours after Prime Minister Modi's sudden and surprised decision to demonetise Rs 500 and 1000 currency notes, Malegaon like other parts of the country woke up to the long queue of the people outside banks and ATMs.
Friday however was a different story all together. Since morning, the huge crowd of people outside banks were doubled and tripled of what people had seen a day before. Every road banks were located was flooded with people. Normal traffic was disrupted and it appeared as if whole of the city was on roads to exchange old and now discontinued currency notes.
Men and women - some also with small kids and babies, standing in queues were mostly labourers working in local powerloom factories. Carrying Annexure 5 - the form needed to exchange the banned currencies in one hand and few Rs 500 and 1000 bills in the other, many of them were searching for someone who could help them out in filling the form.
Turned out, Rs 500 and 1000 notes they wanted to exchange were issued to them by their masters - the powerloom factory owners for whom these poor labourers were working.
"We are here to exchange the notes we were paid in wages. Powerloom factory owners said they do not have 100 rupee notes and gave us Rs 500 and 1000 notes along with this form", Zahid Shaikh, a labourer, said showing Annexure -5.
"We told them Rs 500 and 1000 notes are now discontinued. What will we do with these banned notes which are not acceptable in the markets? How could we buy food grains and other things needed to feed our families? We kept asking such questions but to no avail", he added.
Malegaon has more than 2,50,000 powerlooms running in some 10,000 plus units. The city with a population of over 07 lakh people works on weekly wages system and millions of rupees in cash are paid to labourers every week.
Following the announcement by Prime Minister Modi on November 08 that Rs 500 and 1000 notes will no longer be valid tenders, the powerloom owners paid the old notes they had with them to the labourers. Some even paid advance payments and some gave excess notes asking the labourers to get them exchanged.
"My wages totaled some 2500 rupees. But the factory owner gave me eight 500 rupee notes. He said exchange them, keep 2500 rupees with you and return back the remaining amount to me", Abdul Majeed, another labourer, said while talking to ummid.com.
Abdul Majeed was the one who was standing in the queue for the whole day on Friday with Shaikh Alauddin. The duo could not get their money exchanged and Shaikh Alauddin died on the same day as soon as he reached home.
Ironically, the powerloom owners gave away banned Rs 500 and 1000 notes to labourers even though frequent appeals were made, especially by former MLA Mufti Ismael, that everyone should help and assist people from weaker and poor sections of the society at this testing time and one should not give banned notes to them.
At the time when majority of powerloom owners added to the pain of labourers and common man by giving away banned notes to them there are some glaring examples from the same lot who did everything in their hands to support and help poor labourers.
"The announcement by the prime minister was sudden and unexpected. We did not have enough Rs 100 and lower denomination notes in hand. But, some how I arranged and gave them to the labourers so that they should not suffer", Shahryar Ansari, a powerloom owner, said.
In one of the sizing units, the owner noticed that the warper is uneasy and looking tense, and is not able to concentrate on his job.
"Talking to him it was found that he had some discontinued notes and he was now worried how he would get them exchanged. The sizing owner took the money from him and gave him the new notes in return", a friend of the owner, who did not wish to be named, said.
Powerloom factories to close down
Since the long queues outside banks and ATMs are yet to vanish, it would have been the same scene the coming Friday as well. But the timely decision taken by some powerloom owners, especially in Jaffar Nagar area of the city, to close down their mills for 15 days is expected to provide breather.
In other areas of the city, some master weavers have issued prior warnings to jobbers that they will be paid old Rs 500 and 1000 notes again, hence they can close down their units if they wish to do so.
Meanwhile, even though banks are working beyond their regular timings to provide ease to suffering people, most of the ATMs in the city are yet to be operational.
"In fact on Sunday only the ATM at the SBI main branch was working. All other ATMs were closed due to insufficient balance", Khaleel Ansari, a teacher, said.