The Reserve Bank of India says that you can walk into any bank irrespective of your having an account in it and demand that the damaged or torn or mutilated currency note you have unfortunately come to possess during one of the several monetary transactions in daily life be exchanged for a good one. But that does not seem to be applicable to damaged notes spit out by the ATM machine. At least, that is what the bank in which I have a Savings Bank account has told me.
Recently, I withdrew some cash from the ATM machine nearest to my residence. For the first time in over three years, there was a torn note among the several notes. Had the torn note been of a lower denomination, I would have pasted a cello- tape on it to cover the torn portion and given it in some shop while buying some goods. Even the shop keeper would have ignored the cut and paste job. But this note happened to be a thousand rupee note. No shop keeper accepts a thousand rupee note without examining it thoroughly. Since there have been news reports of counterfeit currency in circulation, particularly in 500 and 1000 denominations, every one is very careful. Naturally so. I had no option other than to take it to my bank and ask for an exchange. The official at the cash counter asked me for the ATM slip which one gets from the machine while withdrawing money. Luckily, I had it with me and handed it to him. To my surprise, the official said that the particular ATM from which I withdrew money is maintained by a distant branch and not the one I have account in and to which I have come. So, he said, the solution is to travel 6 km to that branch and get the note exchanged. I could not agree to the impractical suggestion and I insisted that the note be exchanged at this very branch. The poor official had to go the branch manager, however reluctantly so and get his consent before issuing me a new thousand rupee note, as a one time exception. But he made it clear that in future, I should approach that branch whichever is responsible for maintaining the particular ATM , if I had a similar problem. Alternatively, I should choose that ATM which is just outside any bank branch so that one just walks into the branch and gets the job done if the note needs to be replaced. This, in effect, would mean that I should give up the luxury of using the ATM which is less than 100 metres from my residence and instead have to walk nearly a km to withdraw money from an ATM which is directly outside the bank. Sounds illogical, right? Though torn notes from ATM are not a regular occurrence, possibility does exist ; the fact that if you need to withdraw Rs.10000.-, the ATM coughs out 9 thousand rupee notes, 1 five hundred rupee note and 5 hundred rupee notes makes the probability, however small, of a thousand rupee note being torn rather than one of smaller dimension being so does make one a bit nervous.