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India eases cash rules for weddings

wedding

NEW DELHI: India announced new measures Thursday to allow farmers and marrying couples to withdraw more money from banks, as frustration mounted over a cash crisis triggered by the withdrawal of all high-value notes.

The shock move last week, which saw 85 percent of the cash in circulation suddenly withdrawn, has led to huge queues forming outside banks as people rush to exchange old notes for new, and has thrown plans into disarray as the wedding season gets under way in the country of 1.2 billion people.

The government has placed a weekly limit of 24,000 rupees ($350) on withdrawals as banks struggle to cope with a shortage of cash and many ATMs run dry.

But Shaktikanta Das, secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs, said families planning a wedding would now be able to withdraw up to 250,000 rupees in one go.

“Various representations were made to the government,” Das told journalists in New Delhi.

“(We) decided that for marriage ceremonies, up to 250,000 rupees will be permitted to be withdrawn from the bank account and it has to be drawn… from the father, mother or the person getting married.”

The sudden withdrawal of the two highest denomination notes — aimed primarily at tackling tax evasion — has created huge problems for families planning weddings in India where most people still use cash, even for large transactions.

That however did not stop a mining tycoon from hosting a lavish wedding ceremony for his daughter on Wednesday, taking over a royal palace in the southern city of Bangalore at a reported cost of $75 million.

Agriculture has also been hit hard as farmers struggle to buy seeds and fertiliser with the winter crop-sowing season now under way.

Das said farmers would now be able to withdraw a slightly higher amount — 25,000 rupees — and would be given more time to repay government loans for crop insurance.

“Agriculture is an important component of our society,” he said.

“We are at the commencement of rabi (winter crop) season, and therefore to ensure that sowing takes place properly and farmers get smooth supplies like fertilisers, the farmers can withdraw up to 25,000 rupees per week.”

There was bad news, however, for anyone who did not fall into those two categories.

Das said the amount an individual can change from old notes to new would be reduced to 2,000 rupees from 4,500 rupees, in an attempt to ensure that more people could get hold of at least some cash.

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