When I left my home in the morning, for my office, on March 5, my mother asked me to withdraw some money from Yes Bank to meet daily household expenses of March. I nodded and started my day. It was just another busy day at office, and never did I imagine that by sunset we would face a fatal blow, which would make our life very difficult for a long unpredictable time.
At 5 pm I came out of the office building and went to the nearest ATM inside our office campus. I wanted to withdraw Rs.15000. I Inserted the debit card of Yes Bank and followed the instructions on screen. To my utter surprise, the transaction was declined with a message ‘you exceeded your limit’. I was not much disturbed, something must be wrong with this ATM, I thought. I inserted the card again this time to check my account balance, again an error message flashed, ‘Account details not available’. I felt uneasy yet convinced that the problem was with that ATM machine. On my way to home, I stopped my car at another ATM and tried to withdraw money but no luck. In the era of cashless economy, I am overtly dependent on debit, credit cards. Therefore, I carry very little cash.
When demonetisation happened, I had big problem of accessing cash. That memory came back to mind and I probably started panicking unknowingly. When second withdrawal attempt failed, I became nervous and tried to access my account through mobile banking application of Yes Bank. I froze to see that after log in no information displayed under ‘My account’. By then I was tensed, I took out my laptop and tried the net banking of Yes Bank. Alas no luck again. ‘This is creepy’, I thought but as there was nothing more to do then, I started browsing through social media, my favourite hobby on go. The blow was waiting for me right there in SM. In Twitter the breaking news made me feel numb in shock. RBI imposed a moratorium on Yes Bank. Depositors could withdraw only Rs.50,000 till April 3, 2020. I couldn’t believe it, I read that report, I hurriedly searched for more reports and read all. Indeed, Yes Bank collapsed, leaving us in great distress.
We are customers of yes bank for almost five years. My father opened the account because the bank offered 6% interest in savings account and the service was good. When my father passed away, I and my mother started operating the account jointly. We never had any doubt about the bank. To be frank, like many common people, we are not so well informed about ups and downs in banking sector, in other words we do not read business news regularly. We are small customers and Yes Bank is a big bank with pan India presence. We have never ever imagined that the bank would collapse like this. When PMC banks in Maharashtra collapsed, we thought it could happen to PMC banks only, big private bank like Yes Bank can never face such a situation. We sympathised with harassed customers of PMC banks but never really felt their pain. Yesterday while facing the same crisis, I realised their challenges fully.
When I reached home, I thought my mother was waiting for money. It took me a while to decide how to share this terrible information with her. She was looking fragile and anxious. I did not have to tell much; she already watched the news. It was a chilling feeling, our primary savings are now locked in Yes Bank and we do not know when we can access the money, if at all! After a while Ma muttered our common concern- Ki hobe ebar’ (What will happen now?). ‘I don’t know, but surely government will do something’ was my only response. Gradually the entire situation unfolded before me, I read how the bank was crisis ridden for years together, how financial experts time and again warned all about this matter and how RBI failed to take effective steps to avoid crisis. But more than facts & figures what engrossed me was our new reality.
I wondered how would I make payment to contractor, who started painting our house, end of this week? How would I pay the bill of the material suppliers due on coming week? So many other bill payments are due, it is the beginning of the month. Normally it takes 10 minutes for me to make payment using mobile banking. Now what will happen? It was early morning, around 1: 30 am I decided to call Yes Bank customer care. I waited for 50 minutes, tensed, agitated, sad before a customer care executive answered my call around 2:30 am. I narrated what all happened since evening and asked for an explanation. There was a brief silence, then the man assured me in a mechanical voice that nothing to worry about, moratorium is temporary, and all will be well. I was emotionally exhausted and extremely worried by then, so I politely asked him ’Do you really believe this?’ again a short silence on the other end and this time when he spoke his voice was no more mechanical but full of concerns, just like my agitated voice; ‘I and my wife have our salary accounts in Yes Bank Madam, I do not know what will happen, let us hope for the best” he sighed. I realised that on the other end of the telephone there was a man equally helpless like me, I thanked him and ended the call. I saw #YesBank and #YesBankInCrisis trending top in SM in India, people sharing info, which only made me feel sicker and more helpless.
This nightmare is real, our savings are not in our control anymore. I stayed awake whole night and wondered how many more sleepless nights are ahead of us? I was angry with myself, why didn’t I collect more information about the bank? Then I realised, we the middle class hardly ever did so. We trust bank as an institute. We trust RBI and government as custodians of our deposits, we do not check and crosscheck Bank’s performances time to time. Post-independence, when nationalisation of private bank happened, it gave us immense sense of security, gradually we also become used to big private banks with smoother services. We trust these private banks because we know that these banks too are regulated by RBI.
It was 7 am in the morning I had to get ready for another day. I was tired, depressed. I feel betrayed by the bank but more by RBI and the government. In just one day life has changed, yesterday I was financially comfortable, overnight I am clueless how to manage daily chores with mere Rs.50,000 for an entire month! I called my office & took a leave. My mother signed a cheque of Rs. 50,000 and I headed towards the nearest branch of Yes Bank to join the long queue. As I waited for my turn I realised, small depositors did not matter to RBI. By putting us in immense difficulties, RBI is trying to save the bank (Corporate & promoters) and covering up its own limitations/gaps. It seems a cruel joke to me when RBI suggests that in emergency, we can apply to RBI for withdrawing up to 5 lakhs? Why do we must beg for our hard earned money? Even if we beg, will the permission ever come on time?
The branch closed its shutter before my turn came, with an announcement that cash exhausted for the day. I returned home empty handed. More than money, today I want answers from our government-Are we small customers trigger this bank failure? If not, then why are we punished? Why are we suffering for the corporate loan defaulters? Why RBI or Yes Bank never bothered to inform us about the looming crisis in advance? How will we survive another notebandi?