Chemists in Mumbai run out of change as people make a beeline to get rid of 500 and 1,000 rupee notes

Caught unawares of the government’s decision, chemists claim enough time was not given to stock up change

City chemists put up a notice stating that 500 and 1,000 rupee notes will not be accepted Pic courtesy: Hindustan Times

Chemists across Mumbai refused to take the now banned 500 and 1000 rupee notes, causing a lot of distress to people. However, when My Medical Mantra spoke to the chemists association they claimed that they were caught unawares, when hoards of people rushed to several chemist shops on Tuesday evening.

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on national television about his government’s decision of demonitising 500 and 1000 rupee notes, people rushed to their nearest chemists and bought medicines in exchange of the case they had. The chemists association on Wednesday claimed that majority of the chemists were not aware of the government’s decision and gave away all the change of smaller denominations (Rs100, Rs50, Rs20, Rs10) to people and by late night all chemists had run out of money.

“Within an hour of PM Modi’s announcement, we had exhausted all the Rs100, Rs50, Rs20 and Rs10 notes. Most of us were at the shop and were unaware of the development. Every customer came with Rs500 or Rs1,000 note,” said Prasad Danave, general secretary of Retail and Dispensing Chemist Association.

He said it was because of absence of adequate change that many chemists in the city decided to shut their shop for the day (on Wednesday). “Government said chemists and government hospitals will accept these notes but we were not provided with enough change. Our association decided not to turn away any customer but when all of them started turning up with the high denomination notes, it was difficult,” said Danave.

The central government had on Tuesday night said that all the public hospitals and pharmacies will continue to accept Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes for the next 72 hours. While chemists had the toughest time, indoor patients due for discharge from hospitals too faced inconvenience along with doctors.

“In the morning, we had put up the notice saying Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes won’t be accepted. We asked our patients to pay via credit/ debit card or even cheque if they didn’t have cash otherwise. It was still a maddening evening with everyone coming with those notes that are now invalid,” said Dr Bipin Pandit of Mukund hospital.

He said they later decided to accept the notes as many were senior citizens. “We had many senior citizens who complained that since bank is shut and they only of Rs500 note, we accepted them. We although welcome the government’s decision, it will be a trouble for us for next few days,” Pandit added.

In Mumbai, all the civic and state run hospitals were instructed to accept notes of Rs500 and Rs1,000 but they too faced problem.

“Patients were giving Rs500 note for a fee of Rs20. We didn’t have the change in return,” said Dr Avinash Supe, Dean, KEM hospital and Director, Medical Education.