Tourists in India scramble for cash following demonetization of 500 and 1,000 notes

An Indian counts currency notes of 1000 and 500 denomination in New Delhi. Pic: AP

ON November 8, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi unexpectedly announced plans to immediately ban Rs500 and 1,000 notes with the stated aim of fighting tax evasion, corruption and financing of terrorism.

However, the move has been met with much criticism by locals and tourists alike, with many scrambling for notes as the country is hit with a scarcity for cash and frustratingly long queues.

BBC reported that locals have taken it badly, with many finding that much of their savings are now deemed worthless. Businesses have also been hit by the news, with many cash-only stalls suffering poor revenues.

The news has also been taken poorly by tourists, most of whom are left with large amounts of worthless cash. The Times of India reported that with currency of these denominations becoming virtually useless and replacements being scarce, many holidaymakers have encountered difficulties in paying for accommodation and meals.

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Vasudev Arlekar, a taxi driver, told the paper, “Each day, we witness tourists dashing from one shop to another to get some legitimate change. Stores selling essential items have begun refusing tourists and is denting the image of the state.”

International Business Times wrote that foreign travelers are also being coaxed into buying souvenirs and gifts in return for lower denomination notes, or forced to make purchases of equivalent value.

Some tourists are also ripped off when approached by conmen offer to change their obsolete notes for a high “premium” or “commission”.

Worst still are the plight of foreign medical tourists who have requested doctors to postpone their surgeries and treatment.

Despite the outrage and struggle following the shock move, the Prime Minister defended his decision in a speech in Goa yesterday.

Modi appealed to the public to bear the inconvenience for the promise of a nation free of “black money” — unaccounted-for cash on which taxes have not been paid.

To add salt to the wound, Delhi is currently hit by the worst case of smog in 17 years, with Air Pollution Index (API) measurements recording hazardous levels.

Delhi tourism minister Kapil Mishra deemed air quality as the “worst ever setback” for tourism and added that a major image makeover campaign will be implemented after finding a solution to the smog.

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