On November 8, 2016, the Indian government announced that all 500 and 1,000 rupee notes (£6 and £12) were no longer valid. More than 80% of currency in India could no longer be used.
The government said it was determined to stamp out corruption, avoidance of payment of taxes and money stashed and hidden away at home.
The shock announcement meant that anybody with 500 and 1000 rupee notes had to go to a bank and exchange the notes for the new notes of the same value, plus a new 2000 rupee note.
Banks and ATM machines have been regularly running out of the new money with the machines refilled the following day.
Westerners frequently use their cards in ATM machines in India, which currently allow a maximum of 2500 rupees (£30) per single withdrawal.
Long, long queues formed for hours outside banks for Indian citizens to change their notes into the new currency. The sudden announcement sent shocked waves through the 1.3 billion population of India.
More than 50% of Indian citizens do not have a bank account. Most of these poor citizens have no idea how bureaucracy works and have never dealt with a bank in their lives.
The middle classes and the poor formed the queues to exchange their old money into the new money or lose all their money. Citizens have until the end of December to exchange their old 500 and 1000 rupees note. After that, the old 500 and 1000 rupee notes become small pieces of worthless paper.
People of India have a remarkable capacity to deal with unwelcome events thrown at them. They have no choice.
The banning of the currency certainly generates a temporary inconvenience for Westerners but for millions of people in India the lack of circulation of the new currency impacts on their income. More than 70% of India’s population is self-employed working entirely with cash transactions.
Life has become a whole lot harder for hundreds of millions of people in India until this currency transition is completed. Some of the desperately poor will barely understand why their modest savings hidden under the floor have ceased to have any value.
Advice to Foreign visitors to India
We have regular emails from Western friends in India. Some have found it slow to exchange for foreign currency or transfer the old currency to the new notes. There are reports of foreigners busking to earn some pay money or relying on the kindness and generosity of local people.
If you are currently planning to travel to India in the next few months, here are some suggestions
- Travel to India with foreign currency. Take foreign currency to India, especially Euros, Dollars or Sterling. Take small notes such as Euros €5, €10, €20.00. Keep money in pouch on the body, not in shoulder bag.
- Compare the exchange rate. You may be able to exchange money at the airport. You can change money with the money changers in the city streets. Your hotel may be able to advise you on where locally to exchange money.
- ATM wall machines in small cities and towns often do not run out of money as quickly as the big cities.
- Use your credit/debit card as much as possible for hotels, trains and flights in India and before you fly to India.
- ATM machines permits a single maximum withdrawal of 2500 rupees. Some people successfully make two consecutive withdrawals. If the ATM machine is empty, ask guard or staff what time the machine is refilled with money.
- www.cleartrip.com, a respected Indian travel agency, allows payment for travel with a foreign credit card.
- Use 100 rupee notes as much as possible as they are easier for payment for smaller purchases.
- If you are going to attend a retreat in India, you could consider making a Paypal donation before you leave for India. Let retreat manager know.
PS. Remember that you are going to India, not Switzerland!
Retreats in Sarnath, near Varanasi, India
44th ANNUAL RETREAT IN INDIA
FROM INSIGHT MEDITATION (Vipassana) TO LIBERATION
26 January to 2 February 2017
FROM INSIGHT MEDITATION (Vipassana) TO LIBERATION
CHRISTOPHER AND ZOHAR LAVIE
2 February to 9 February, 2017
see home page for registration form
12 February – 19 February, 2017
http://www.radhanicholson.com (for full information).
We start the teachings at 19.00 on the first day and we finish at 13.00 on the final day in Sarnath and Bodh Gaya
Registrations start in the afternoon of arrival.
Dora from Brighton, UK, is the senior manager for both Sarnath retreats. Our retreats will not be able to accept the old 500 and 100 rupee notes. We will provide an update on the currency situation at the start of the retreat. Donations in foreign currency and new rupee notes will be welcome.
After the second Sarnath retreats, practitioners can travel by train or perhaps bus together, and stay in the Thai Monastery, Bodh Gaya, as soon as they arrive, for the retreat with Radha.
To register for one, two or three retreats, then simply email to address below with information form found on HOW TO REGISTER. See menu on left hand side of home page of website if you wish to attend the first or second retreat or both. Email information form to:
Both Sarnath retreats are run on donations. Appeal is made at end of each retreat to cover costs including food, travel and donation to the monastery with invitation to offer donations to the teacher(s) and manager. Please consider offering a donation before the retreat. You can donate, via Paypal. You can use Paypal to send donation to email@example.com.
Please let Dora know of the sum transferred. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Email address for Christopher is email@example.com
See www.sanghaseva.org for retreat in India with Zohar and Nathan.
See www.opendharma.org for retreats in India with Jaya.
Please feel free to pass onto the above information to others who are preparing to go to India or in India.
May all beings live with equanimity
May all beings handle change with wisdom
May all beings live in peace