By Anand Singh
New Delhi, Nov 16: Linda, a 34-year-old tourist from Sweden, has been facing a traumatic time standing in bank queues for the past few days to get cash.
Apart from the shortage of cash, she has had to suffer people clicking her photo without permission, getting stalked and even listening to lewd comments passed at her. Since the demonetisation move a week ago, Linda and other foreign tourists are an upset lot.
“For the last three days it’s been a big challenge to get some cash,” Linda told IANS standing in the middle of a crushing queue of around 400 people at a Citibank ATM kiosk in Paharganj.
“I had to go to three banks, and everyday I had to spend around three to four hours to get cash,” Linda said, referring to the severe cash crunch in the country since the government spiked 500 and 1,000 rupee notes on November 8.
She was also upset by the response of the bystanders, and said, “I went mad, when people here passed lewd comments at me.”
She said many clicked pictures of her and many tried to follow her to her hotel. “I feel insecure as there is no proper security arrangement at the banks,” Linda said.
She said this was her second visit to India and she has been in the country for about a month. “But my second trip experience has been horrible (due to demonetisation),” she said, adding that most people did not have the correct information.
“What has been more frustrating is that there was no proper information available,” she said, and added that she’s cutting short her visit and returning to her country.
Many other foreign tourists in Delhi are finding it tough to manage. Rebecca, from England who was on a month’s trip to India, told IANS, “I have had to cut short my trip due to the cash crunch. Now I am going back just after 18 days.”
Sharing her experience of standing in the bank queues, Rebecca said, “Standing in the queues is very scary. People stare, they try to come close and they follow us and stalk.”
Kem, a tourist from Japan residing in a hotel in Paharganj area, told IANS: “I have run out of cash. I am unable to buy any food items due to that, so every night I wait at the window of my hotel room and keep a tab on the Citibank ATM just to find out when it will open.”
Kem said he was left with only a Rs 100 note and the cash crisis had forced him to cancel his trip to Jaisalmer in Rajasthan.
Asked how he was paying for his food and hotel bills, Kem said: “I have asked them to wait till the situation improves and I get cash through banks or the ATM machines.”
Several other foreign tourists said they had no option but to return to their countries. Many said they had to depend on the kindness of hotels or restaurants.
Aster, a 50-year-old female tourist from Israel, told IANS: “I had to stay hungry for two days as I did not have any cash with me. But then I requested the restaurant here to accept my currency and adjust it at the Indian currency value.”
She also rued that there were many people who were trying to profit from the current situation. “Many people are asking us tourists to give our currencies to them at lower rates. This is cheating and it’s very racist” in nature.
“We are not fools that we don’t understand the value of the currency. Right now I am not left with any other choice but to get some cash,” Aster lamented.
However, there are also some people who have helped foreign tourists.
Manju, who runs a mehendi and tattoo shop in Paharganj, told IANS: “A couple from England has been residing in a hotel here for the last one week. I tattooed them but after the old currencies were scrapped they were unable to pay me.”
“They also did not have any cash. So I arranged some home food for them at my home here,” she said.
Local shopkeepers in Paharganj said that earlier the market would teem with foreign tourists but was now virtually empty, post demonetisation.
Harbour, who arrived from Britain on Monday on his 30th trip to India, told IANS: “At the airport I had exchanged some cash as I had to go to Ajmer,” adding that “There is no choice but to cope with the situation.”
“The government should create separate ATM kiosks for foreign tourists in markets and railway stations,” said Harbour, who added that India is like a second home to him as he was born in Haryana’s Rewari district.