COLOMBO: Sri Lankans, who travel to India in large numbers and frequently, are feeling the pinch after India demonetized 500 and 1000 Indian rupee notes.
Hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans are stuck with large amounts of Indian currency because they do not change the money while returning to the island from a visit to India. This is because many go back to India for repeat shopping or pilgrimage either to the Buddhist shrines in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh or to the Hindu temples in south India. Multiple visits are normal.
The problem is huge with over 200,000 Sri Lankans visiting India every year with 120 flights a week connecting Colombo with nine Indian cities.
Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims have been making frantic calls to Indian nationals in Sri Lanka and money changers and shop keepers of Indian origin in Colombo’s main market in Pettah, to find out how they can change the notes.
And they are heartbroken when told that there is no way they can change them in Sri Lanka. The Indian banks with branches here like the State Bank of India, have also told them that the there is no way they can help in this matter. They are dismayed when told they should not be having Indian currency in the first place as it is not convertible.
The only advice that money changers have been giving to their distraught clients is: take the money to India and get it exchanged in a bank or ask a friend to do that. But few consider this a practical option as the deadline of December 30 it too near.