India cash-crunch ruins NRI wedding, travel plans

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The Indian community in the UAE is mourning the demise of certain denominations of Indian rupee notes, making normal life difficult for their families back home.

Many Indian families traditionally plan their annual vacations to India on or around the start of the school holidays, which this year would begin on December 15. This year, several are keenly watching the severe cash shortage situation in India and in case the situation does not improve by the time they’re ready to fly out, many families may skip their annual vacation or may prefer to holiday elsewhere, say travel agents.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, non-resident Indians living here said they are getting distress calls from families back home, telling them how even cash for normal expenses cannot be withdrawn from banks as ATMs repeatedly run out of cash due to a rush of worried customers.

NRI weddings and house construction plans are among the worst affected as workers and contractors refuse to accept old Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes that used to constitute more than 80 per cent of money in circulation. The cash shortage has affected ongoing construction work of many expatriates, whose dream projects are now stuck.

Afsal, a restaurant manager in Dubai, said: “The situation back home is more serious than what we see in the media. In my case, my mother had withdrawn a certain amount of money from the bank back home to meet the daily wage payment to nearly 20 workers who were building my house. The project is now on hold because workers refused to accept wages in old currency.”

Buying construction material and paying wages is one of the most challenging issues because most of the million-strong construction workers do not have bank accounts to change their currencies. NRI weddings, extravagant as they are, are also affected as a lot of cash is splashed for wedding-related expenses. In the absence of currency notes, families planning weddings are facing a tough time.

“I just came back from India after cutting short my vacation because it is a difficult situation there. Even before buying a cup of tea or buying something from the shops, I had to check in advance whether the shop has enough change for Rs2,000 notes. I was supposed to be enjoying my vacation until next month, but I decided to cut it short and returned to Dubai because without money, it is a tough time there,” said Murali Dharan, managing director of Day of Dubai.

“The next school vacation for three weeks start from December 15 and schools here will remain closed until January. NRI families are watching the situation whether they can travel to India after easing the cash shortage situation. Many are hoping that the situation will ease by that time. Otherwise, there will be a major impact on the travel scene,” said Sudheesh TP, general manager of Deira Travels.

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