New Delhi, India – On November 8, a few hours before midnight, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a surprise decision banned 500 and 1,000-rupee banknotes in a bid to fight corruption.
India’s largest currency bills, worth just over $7 and $14 respectively, comprised 86 percent of the total notes in circulation and were extracted from the market at once. The bills in circulation amounted to $23bn.
This currency demonetisation has caused chaos as millions of Indians, who mostly use cash for business and shopping, have been lining up outside banks and ATMs.
The government says the demonetisation will wipe out counterfeit currency notes and black money – the term widely used to describe transactions that take place outside formal channels.
But many have criticised the government’s lack of preparedness for such a drastic step, which they say is likely to dampen economic growth and negatively affect the working class and farmers, most of whom are not part of the banking system.
Kishori Lal, a 34-year-old daily-wage worker, says: “For the past week, I haven’t received payment for the work I do. Every day, my contractor asks me to come back tomorrow, as he also doesn’t have money to pay me. How can I feed my family?”
Bank employees have been working 12-hour shifts without weekends off to meet the demand from customers wanting to exchange the banned notes.
“People are angry. They are frustrated and shout at us,” says one who asked not to reveal his name.
“I am working on Saturday and Sunday. Ever since the announcement, we haven’t taken even one leave.”
Al Jazeera’s Showkat Shafi found out how demonetisation is impacting people across New Delhi.