Money changers, banks in Singapore stop taking old rupees

Money changers in Little India say more people have been approaching them to exchange the old 500 and 1,000 Indian rupees, which stopped being legal tender on Tuesday.
Money changers in Little India say more people have been approaching them to exchange the old 500 and 1,000 Indian rupees, which stopped being legal tender on Tuesday.ST PHOTO: RAHIMAH RASHITH

Following India's ban on old 500 and 1,000 rupee notes on Tuesday, people have approached money changers to exchange the now-defunct notes, only to find that neither they nor Indian banks in Singapore are accepting the notes, leaving people stranded with stacks of bills that are no longer legal tender.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the bank- notes would be withdrawn from the financial system overnight in an effort to crack down on corruption and illegal cash holdings.

Indian citizens must go to their local banks or post offices in the country to deposit the outdated currency over the next 50 days. In return, the Indian government will issue new Rs500 (S$10) and Rs2,000 (S$42) denomination notes.

For tourists in India or Indians overseas who do not have a bank account in India, things are murkier.

Five money changers told The Straits Times they had stopped buying or selling the discontinued notes since Wednesday. Mr Mohammad Din, 40, a money changer at Raffles Place, said he stopped trading in the notes when they ceased to be legal tender.

 
 

"Almost 20 people came yesterday to sell their notes but we do not take them any more," he said.

A money changer in Little India, Mr Abdul Malik, 56, said the move was very sudden but he too had stopped accepting or issuing the old notes.

He added that more than 50 people had tried to get their old notes exchanged.

It is understood that Indian banks in Singapore have stopped accepting the old banknotes as well.

One Singaporean who went to multiple banks and money changers in Little India said he had no luck. "I decided to go to the place where I had originally changed the money and the money changers would not accept it, so I went to the banks and they would not accept it either, " said Mr Letchman P., 50. "The bank said, you cannot exchange them in Singapore, you have to go to a bank in India."

The construction supervisor was planning to go on holiday in India early next year and had changed about 20,000 Indian rupees, in the old banknotes. "It affects not just India but all countries," he added.

Retiree M. K. Hashim, who had changed $5,000 worth for an upcoming vacation to Kerala, said he hoped that the Indian government would do something about the situation for foreigners.

Attempts to reach the High Commission of India in Singapore yesterday were unsuccessful.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2016, with the headline 'Money changers, banks stop taking old rupees'. Print Edition | Subscribe