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Opinion

Thursday, 20 April 2017 | MYT 12:00 AM

Clinging to hope that notes will be exchanged

I MUST say Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a bold and visionary leader. His move to crack down on black money was fraught with political risks but he pressed ahead anyway.

The Indian Government announced the demonetisation of the 500 rupee and 1000 rupee notes on Nov 8 last year and set Dec 30 2016 as the deadline for exchanging these notes for new tender in 500 and 2,000 rupee denominations at banks or post offices.

Just like the Indians, Malaysians too were caught off guard by Modi’s announcement. Many were keeping the notes which they had collected from their trips to India. Others who were planning to visit the country and had converted their ringgit into Indian currency were also put in a quandary.

Indians were given less than two months to exchange the notes after Modi’s announcement. Many Malaysians wanted to go to India to change their notes but they deferred their plans upon reading reports of long queues outside banks (pic).

Online news portals in India carried reports of people fainting in the mad rush to exchange their notes. It was even reported that some who had medical problems died while queuing up.

There were also reports that non-resident Indians (NRIs) and Indians returning from abroad were required to physically show their old notes to customs officials at entry points and get a declaration form stamped before they could deposit the demonetised currency at the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) during the grace period. There were two grace periods, March 31 and June 30 for different categories of Indian nationals.

I must say the Indian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur was not very helpful to Malaysians seeking information on how they could exchange their demonetised notes. I called the high commission several times over several months and was given the run-around. There was no hotline to help Malaysians.

One high-ranking officer at the high commission told me to check the procedures at the RBI website. I did just that but there was no information available. To date, the procedures are still unclear.

I would like to remind the high commission that Malaysians obtained the Indian notes by exchanging them in India or had exchanged them with local money changers registered with Bank Negara. We worked hard to earn the money.

It’s becoming clear that the notes in my possession are almost worthless but I am still hoping that Modi would look into the plight of Malaysians and citizens of other countries who could not exchange them within the stipulated period. The Indian Government should assist as much as possible as, I am sure, there are many Malaysians who are in the same boat as me.

ANGUISHED

Kuala Lumpur