Of Death & Despair: How Demonetisation Brought Ruin to Many 

What happens to the families of those who die while waiting in ATM queues? 

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(This story was first published on 30 December 2016 and is being republished with minimal changes in light of the fourth anniversary of demonetisation, on 8 November 2020.)

In a matter of fifty days, the Centre’s demonetisation drive has managed to do the unthinkable. Apart from the many search and seizures, this radical move has also had an unintended consequence - the premature deaths of at least fifty people across the country. The Quint traces three such families, each saddled with grief of unimaginable proportions.

Ramkali’s house in a dusty Muzaffarnagar lane has fallen quiet all of a sudden. The 80-year-old was not in the pink of health when she visited a nationalised bank to withdraw new currency notes. Ramkali had set out to see her doctor, making a short detour to the bank. But fate would have it otherwise. In the presence of her grandchildren and many others, Ramkali collapsed at the bank while standing in a queue. An hour later, she made it to the hospital, albeit in a lifeless state.

But the demons of demonetisation had more in store for Ramkali. Her family, now pushed to a state of disbelief, had to arrange for her funeral and pay for it in cash.

After much coaxing, her daughter-in-law managed to withdraw Rs 6,000. Ramkali’s son now blames the bank and demonetisation for his mother’s death.

But Ramkali is not alone. In Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura, the family of Uma Shankar is now spending sleepless nights. Having lost their sole breadwinner to demonetisation, the family has very little food to eat.

We are in a state of helplessness. He’s left behind young kids. Who’s going to get us food and money now?
Uma Shankar’s Brother

Just as heart-wrenching is the tale of Kallol Roy Chowdhury, who passed away while standing at an ATM queue near West Bengal’s Bandel station. Roy was changing trains at the busy junction, when he spotted a relatively less crowded SBI ATM. Roy, witnesses say, fell to the ground after complaining of uneasiness. Yet no one came to his rescue. Those who had lined before the ATM preferred to keep their place in the queue even as they watched Roy die.

Video Editor: Sandeep Suman

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