UAE’s Indian expats struggle to find rupees at currency exchanges ahead of travel

DUBAI // Indian expatriates going home for holidays say currency exchanges have run out of rupees.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s government scrapped 500 and 1,000-rupee notes to tackle corruption and tax evasion last month, and many UAE exchanges have run out of the currency.

Prem Kumar said could not find any rupees when he recently returned home for a holiday.

“My family has asked me to get some cash as they have no money at home,” Mr Kumar said. “My family lives in a village in remote part of India, where there is no bank.

“Now with the sudden new law they have to travel a long way to exchange money, but were not able to do so because of long queues and lack of cash at the only bank catering to thousands of inhabitants of the area.

“As of now, my family is cashless back home and I cannot exchange money here in Dubai. It’s a frustrating situation.”

Ahmed Ali, a cook for a family in Dubai, said the announcement wiped out his savings.

“All my hard-earned money has vanished with just one announcement,” Mr Ali said. “I saved this for my son’s education. All gone.

“I am in Dubai now and cannot go to India to stand in long queues to get it exchanged. I don’t know what to do.”

A customer-service representative at the UAE Exchange in Al Barsha said that the Indian reserve bank had stopped exporting currency on November 9.

“We have no Indian currency available at any counter,” he said. “We have no other options other than to send thousands of customers away disappointed.”

He said cash would be available only after the reserve bank issued the approval notice to export currency.

“Until then, there is no Indian currency.”

Abdul Jaleel K V, assistant general manager at Al Ansari Exchange, said the amount of Indian currency was slowly improving.

“Initially, we experienced a shortage in the availability of the newly minted Indian rupees,” Mr Abdul Jaleel said. “However, we have strived hard to make available the new notes as quickly as possible to the public.

“We are pleased to confirm that the new Indian rupee notes are now available at most of our branches and the situation is steadily going back to normal.”

Lulu Exchange in Bur Dubai has only the new 2,000-rupee notes available.

“We have only 2,000 rupees as of now and that we got in exchange from a tourist,” said a staff member.

He said the company was not getting any currency from India.

Promoth Manghat, chief executive of the UAE Exchange Group, advised customers travelling to India to use bank cards for transactions.

“Although higher denominations like the new 2,000 bills are available they are not being used yet at the counters,” he said. “There is an overall shortage of notes and the situation is yet to be normalised.”

Using cards for transactions in India would help customers “avoid the inconvenience caused by the scarcity of hard cash in the Indian market due to the recent demonetisation of higher denominations”, he said.




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