Hundreds of Bangladeshi citizens, who come to India for medical treatment, have been adversely affected by India’s sudden demonetisation of higher value currency notes.India announced on Tuesday that its 1,000 and 500 rupee notes will no longer be valid tender with immediate effect.Prime Minister Narendra Modi surprised the nation in a televised address when he announced the demonetisation, saying it was his only option to fight fake currency, black money and corruption.Many described it as a ‘surgical strike’ against India’s huge parallel economy but Modi’s detractors have attacked the move because they say it has hugely impacted the lives of ordinary Indians.All banks and ATMs were closed on Wednesday to stock them up with new currency notes of 500 and 2000 rupees.
Until then, only notes of 100 rupees or less were accepted as valid legal tender.Besides throwing the lives of tens of thousands of average Indians in turmoil, this decision has impacted adversely on Bangladeshi patients in India, either already under treatment or seeking the same.Relatives of such patients said they had exchanged Bangladesh currency or US dollars for high value Indian currency like 1,000 or 500 because large amounts needed for treatment are easy to handle with high value currency.”But now these notes are not accepted by any private hospitals, where our patients are,” said Sheikh Mansur Ali from Jessore.His brother Sheikh Mudassar Ali is being treated for kidney problems at hospital in Kolkata.”The hospital says they will only take 100 rupee notes. I hardly have a few of them,” Mansur told bdnews24.com.Indians can change up to 4,000 rupees of these invalid notes in a single day from banks and post offices after producing national identity cards, not more.”Foreigners can change dollars or other foreign currency but I have already changed my dollars and Bangladesh taka for high value Indian currency when I came with my brother last week,” Mansur said.Thankfully, Mansur had deposited a hefty advance for his brother’s treatment, so it is continuing.”But I am worried when the hospital gives me the final bill.”Many others are not so lucky.For Saima Sharmin, who got Indian currency notes in exchange for Bangladeshi taka at the border, it was a horrible experience.Sharmin was quoted in WION TV channel as saying she was in Kolkata for her chemo therapy at a private hospital.But she had to return home without any treatment since the Tata Cancer Hospital refused to provide her treatment in exchange for the old currency notes that she had.“I am suffering from cancer…I am in urgent need of chemo therapy. My chances of survival depend on the treatment that I receive periodically,” she told WION.“The hospital is demanding 100 rupee notes but I could only exchange Bangladesh’s currency for 500 and 1,000 notes. I have to return home without being treated,” she added.Like Sharmin, several Bangladesh nationals had to either return home or look for other options to avail treatment.While the Indian government has asked hospitals to accept the old 500 and 1,000 rupee notes until this weekend, only the state-run hospitals are doing so.Private hospitals and nursing homes are turning down patients who cannot pay for the treatment in denomination of Rs 100 or lower.Thousands of Bangladeshis come to India every year for not only advanced medical treatment but also for routine check-ups.Many of them come to Kolkata that is nearer home.Hospitals in Kolkata say Bangladeshi patients account for a good part of their revenue.These hospitals are now losing business because they are not able to accept the high denomination Indian currency rendered useless after this week’s demonetisation.