What is holding RBI from introducing polymer currency notes?

There are reports of fake Indian currencies pouring in from across the border. The RBI can stop or at least, reduce to a great extent, the fake currency menace by introducing polymer currency notes at the earliest

The election fever is on and heads have started rolling in allegations and counter accusations by the major parties. The Bangalore cops, discovered to their horror the magnitude of the problem of fake Indian currency notes, while acting on a tip-off (presumably on insider information). They conducted a surprise inspection to find that an "inmate" of a prison had fake Indian currency worth Rs16,000!


It may be remembered that all prisoners have to surrender their personal belongings before being lodged in, and are not allowed to keep anything in their possession. How this inmate got his bundles of fake notes without the "active" assistance and cooperation of prison officials needs to be investigated, which they are probably doing now.


This event took place in Parappana Agrahara Central prison, declared as a "high security prison", from where, a few months ago, an inmate pole vaulted to freedom. He was caught shortly thereafter, but that will be a different story to write about! It is also reported in the media that this money was to be used to facilitate betting operations in the World T20 and ensuing Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket matches! This only means that this is an organised racket inside prison, with a bookie and bettors in a tow!


In a separate mind-boggling incident, the Bellary Administration (in Karnataka) unearthed cash worth Rs10 crore, in addition to which signed cheques (Rs5 crore), Kisan Vikas Patras (Rs4.30 crore) were also found. Investigation is still in progress, as it took two currency counting machines more than two hours to count these notes, found in trunks, buried in rice cans and almirahs etc.


Karnataka is scheduled to have its elections on 17th April and already most government institutions have declared a holiday to facilitate voting.  It is expected that all others will follow so as to have a good turnout.  Voting, as a duty and responsibility, has been encouraged, as never before!


Media reports indicate that the moneylender Puria, who is also known as "chor babulal", lends money to one and all against land and property, is involved in transportation of iron ore and is also an authorised dealer in explosives.  The police are continuing their search operations and working on various leads found in the raid.  More data is likely to be made public by Tuesday, as Monday is a holiday to celebrate Dr Ambedkar Jayanti.  Incidentally, how he got his name as "chor babulal", has not been made public because, nobody seems to know!


So, once again, the issue of fake Indian counterfeit currency notes has raised its ugly head, though the sum seized is too small an amount to talk about, except the fear that it may be the tip of the iceberg!  More vigilant action and raids would lead to unearthing crores of fake notes already in circulation.


Moneylife has covered the counterfeit currency notes issue for more than one year now.  Detailed forensic tests would probably reveal that these notes have 12 of the 14 security features in our currency; but, possibly the paper, ink used and origin of machine used to mint would show that they unmistakably came from Pakistan, being the handy work of ISI.


It is rather unfortunate that except for an assurance in May last year that RBI are contemplating to bring polymer currency notes and that test marketing has been already done in selected towns, no further clear-cut statement has been made by them.


It is time RBI introduces the polymer currency notes in denomination of Rs500 and Rs1,000 without any further delay.


(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)

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