Ghost ‘Noters’ Are Taking Over Banks and ATMs in West Bengal

Bank officials suspected some people standing in line to be “ghosts”, as it happens during elections too.

3 min read
Hindi Female

It’s been a week since the demonetisation announcement and lines outside banks and ATMs are only growing longer.

In Kolkata, the queues feature unperturbed faces who have travelled for hours to get to the spot. Cash exchanges are allowed at all scheduled commercial banks, regardless of a person being an account holder there.

This has led to the rise of ‘ghost noters’, those who are in line to help hide the black wealth and faces of others, as the Telegraph reported.

Senior bank officials have suspected many of the people standing in line to be “ghosts”, as the phenomenon is familiar in Bengal during elections as well.

Breaking Down the Ghost Noter

The ‘ghost’ gets Rs 400 or Rs 500 for every Rs 4,000 that is exchanged. The rate stays the same even when banks can only exchange up to Rs 2,000.

Unlike the people getting impatient because they have had to skip a day’s work to stand in the queue, the ‘ghost’ is patient. However, that may not always be the case as there have been reports of them trying to cut in line and when challenged by others, they admitted to being on a job.

“We were stunned. One of them said they had to queue outside another bank after this. Hence, the hurry,” said Narendra Pai, a medicine store owner.

On an average, it takes around three hours to exchange notes at a bank. Two successful trips would earn a person Rs 800 to Rs 1,000.

What others are losing in daily employment wages, the ghosts are gaining by standing in line.

Bank officials  suspected some people standing in line to be “ghosts”, as it happens during elections too.
People collecting money from a mobile ATM. (Photo: PTI)

Many of them move from one bank to another and none of the “floating” cash seekers were seen depositing or withdrawing money.

A United Bank of India official said, “The queue on the first day (10 November), when banks opened after demonetisation, was understandable. We expected long queues on the second day too. But they have remained as long or have grown longer.”

This led to exasperated bank officials at one bank to open the rear door exclusively only for account holders.

However, not all those who come from far away are ‘ghosts’ as several genuine customers are also venturing into different branches in their neighbourhood to widen their choices.


Modus Operandi

They travel from far off locations to come to the city. Early in the morning, they queue up at photocopying shops and make multiple copies of the same identity card.

They then get the photocopies laminated to look like passable identification documents.

Unfamiliar faces seem to be outnumbering the familiar ones, and they ask for directions to other banks as well. The entire area around the bank gets blocked early in the morning and hence, if there is a shop or grocery store in the vicinity, customers are not being able to go there.

Bank officials  suspected some people standing in line to be “ghosts”, as it happens during elections too.
Indians queuing outside an ATM. (Photo: Reuters)

Keeping Tabs

Bank employees have confessed to facing difficulty in verifying people in the initial days. However, it has not been possible for them to maintain the same standard everyday.

Verifying signatures is the norm for bank employees but the sheer number of people is overwhelming them.

If someone produces the voter card of a dead person, there’s no way I can know it.
Bank Employee

Private banks have detection softwares which can detect if notes were exchanged at any other branch of the bank.

Even if the photo looks blurred or the face does not match,

A bank employee asked: “Even if the photograph looks blurred and the face does not match, who’d want to get into an exchange when 200 people are waiting?”

Indelible Ink

The ink that was used to catch ghost noters is now being used for weeding out ghost voters.

Yet, this may not faze a veteran ghost voter or a noter as many of them know how to bypass the ink system using household items.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Black Money   Banks   Bengal 

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