Tourists in India forced to busk for cash after 'demonetisation'

Discontinued Indian currency notes of 1000 rupee denomination piled up at a bank in Bangalore, India. The unexpected 'demonetisation' caught some tourists off-guard. Photo / AP
Discontinued Indian currency notes of 1000 rupee denomination piled up at a bank in Bangalore, India. The unexpected 'demonetisation' caught some tourists off-guard. Photo / AP

Australian and European tourists have been forced to busk and beg for money on the streets of India after "demonetisation" of high-value currency left them "virtually penniless".

Around 10 to 12 travellers were seen dancing and playing instruments in front of a crowd in Pushkar, Rajasthan, after their banknotes became worthless and ATMs ran out of cash.

Tourists were filmed playing music and dancing with a hula hoop for cash. Photo / YouTube
Tourists were filmed playing music and dancing with a hula hoop for cash. Photo / YouTube

The group, which included holiday-makers from France and Germany, are trying to fund plane trips to Delhi, where they can get help from their countries' embassies, displaying placards reading, "You can help us" and "Money problem".

Jayden, from Australia, told the Hindustan Times they were struggling to even afford food and water.

"We came here on November 8 to see the famous Pushkar fair," he said.

"The same night, the government of India announced demonetisation of 500 and 1000 rupee [$10 and $20] banknotes. Whatever change we had in Rs100 and lower denominations are exhausted."

Their problem arose after Indian authorities announced on November 8 that all 500 and 1000 rupee banknotes were to be removed from circulation and were no longer legal tender.

Commercial banks are no longer exchanging the old notes for new currency. The Reserve Bank of India will still exchange old currency at customer service counters up to a limit of 2000 rupees (around $40), but long queues are expected.

Thousands of ATMs are not working and huge queues have formed at other machines, where withdrawals are typically limited because of cash shortages.

Indian citizens spotting the story about the tourists' predicament have left commentsoffering to help on the India Times website, encouraging the travellers to get in touch on Facebook.

New 2000 and 500 rupee notes have been issued, but are not yet widely available.

The idea behind demonetisation is to stop corruption, since many hoard cash in their homes that is illegally acquired or on which they do not pay tax. While it is likely to initially slow down the economy, it is hoped it will have a positive effect long-term, pushing India towards a cashless society.

The travellers made placards explaining their predicament, after they found themselves unable to withdraw cash. Photo / ABP News/YouTube
The travellers made placards explaining their predicament, after they found themselves unable to withdraw cash. Photo / ABP News/YouTube

It is intended to improve the liquidity of banks, giving them more cash reserves with which to lend more money, and preventing real estate being driven up by cash transactions.

But people are currently struggling to cope with the surprise 86 per cent ($200 billion) hit to the currency in circulation. Indian news outlets have reported that more than 30 have died as a result of the move.

Some perished while standing in long queues and others because they did not have the cash to pay hospitals, pharmacies and ambulances. Cashflow problems have reportedly also led to a suicide and a murder.

Cash replenishment companies have distributed tens of thousands of staff to refill ATMs, but because the notes are of lower denominations, the machines run out several times a day.

Rupinder Anand, chief executive officer at OKI India, which manufactures and runs the nation's ATMs, told the Economic Times the task was proving "extremely difficult".

- news.com.au

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