KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 9 — Malaysians, who had just returned from India or are planning to go there, are left in limbo as local money changers have frozen Indian currency trading after New Delhi announced the scraping of Rs500 (RM31.80) and Rs1,000 bills.
An observation by Bernama at a number of money changer outlets in Jalan Masjid India and around the capital showed that many Malaysians, as well as Indian tourists who made a beeline for the money changer counters to sell the currency were left disappointed.
One of the money changer companies, Sky Xchange said it could only advised its customers to wait for further announcement from the Indian government.
“Hopefully, there will be new announcement tomorrow,” cashier teller Mahiran Ibrahim told Bernama.
She said the currency exchange counter had to turn away more than 20 customers, who came to sell the two notes, since it opened for business today.
Yesterday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the current Rs500 and Rs1000 notes would not be valid from midnight, instead, they would be replaced with new notes of Rs500 and Rs2,000 from Nov 10.
The move is part of a crackdown on corruption and illegal cash holdings, while people will be able to exchange their old notes for new ones at banks over the next 50 days.
Kogilavani Muniappan, 43, who is leaving for India in two weeks’ time felt that more time should be given as he did not think local money changers were going to change their old notes.
“I’ll be leaving for India in two weeks’ time and I think it is quite a hassle to go to the banks (in India) and change the currency, but we have no choice. The queue in India is nothing like home,” she said.
A dispatch employee, George Raman, said he was caught by surprise over the move and hoped there would be further announcement soonest as it had caused havoc to his family.
“I really pity some Indian tourists who are running out of ringgit and need to convert their money to survive,” he said.
Within hours of the announcement that the public will have 50 days to deposit the old bills into bank or post office accounts, the notes were nearly useless for buying anything.
The old notes can still be used for the next three days at India’s selected places, including government hospitals, railway/bus/airline ticket counters and gas stations.
Businessman who wants to be known only as Nathan, 66, said he was affected by the move as he was importing textile and garment from India.
Being an Overseas Citizen of India cardholder, he travelled frequently to India and held bundles of Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes in India.
“I don’t have immediate means to change the notes, nor immediate access to the hard cash in India. And by my next travelling date, the notes will be rendered invaluable,” he said.
Nathan said although the Indian government intended to set up provisions for people arriving or departing from international airports to exchange their notes, no timeframe was given.
“This means one has to travel to India soonest,” he added.
Another frequent traveller to India, D. Priya, 31 said she was not panicking over the announcement despite having a few Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes.
“Anyway, I’m trying to get in touch with my friends, who are leaving for India in a week or two, to seek their help to change the currency as I have until Dec 31 to do so,” she said.
On the home front, a similar move was taken by Bank Negara Malaysia in 1999 when it announced that currency notes of RM500 and RM1,000 denominations ceased to be legal tenders from July 1 that year.
The move was prompted by the Asian monetary crisis of 1997 as huge amounts of Malaysian currency were taken out of the country to be traded in these notes. — Bernama