Asia

Millions scramble after India scrapped its largest banknotes

FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2014 file photo, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks at the launch of a campaign aimed at opening millions of bank accounts for poor Indians in New Delhi, India.  India's highest-denomination currency notes are being withdrawn immediately from circulation, the country's prime minister said Tuesday night, a surprise announcement designed to fight corruption and target people who have stashed away immense amounts of cash. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das, File)

FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2014 file photo, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks at the launch of a campaign aimed at opening millions of bank accounts for poor Indians in New Delhi, India. India's highest-denomination currency notes are being withdrawn immediately from circulation, the country's prime minister said Tuesday night, a surprise announcement designed to fight corruption and target people who have stashed away immense amounts of cash. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das, File)  (The Associated Press)

Indians awoke to a morning of confusion after the government withdrew the highest-denomination currency notes overnight to halt money laundering in a country where many in the poor and middle-class still make day-to-day transactions in cash.

Roadside vegetable sellers, kiosks selling biscuits and tea, small mom-and-pop stores selling groceries, all saw a sharp drop in customers Wednesday as banks and ATMs were closed the morning after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's surprise televised announcement.

As of midnight Tuesday, all 500- and 1,000-rupee notes had no cash value. People holding the discontinued notes would be able to deposit them in banks and post office savings accounts before the end of the year. But anyone making large bank deposits could find themselves the target of Indian tax authorities.