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It’s after all money!

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How many times have we wondered why Indian currency notes can’t be as clean and crisp as dollar or pound sterling bills? Unless you go to the...

How many times have we wondered why Indian currency notes can’t be as clean and crisp as dollar or pound sterling bills? Unless you go to the bank and request for notes in mint condition, just to have a feel of how your fingers will sense new notes, you won’t get a chance of seeing them in pristine condition. Most of the time, they are soiled, disfigured, folded in as many shapes as possible, torn, smudged and corners dog-eared.

If they are in slightly better form, people send messages of endearments, scribble their names as if they own the currency note, and a number to indicate the total amount in a stapled bundle. All these things happen possibly in this country; nowhere else. Currency notes issued by the Reserve Bank of India are so blatantly misused as to unofficially devalue the legal tender.

In a way, it is a reflection of our total disregard for money and treating the currency as note slips. In some countries, it is a punishable offence. But here, sadly, nobody cares and there is no law to take legal action against the offenders. Cynically, some people observe that the rupee value, even in higher denominations, is not worth the paper it is printed on and condemn it to its poor upkeep, forgetting the fact that it is the main instrument of all our transactions and it is the money that makes the world go round.

In this respect, the RBI appeal to the public not to use banknotes for making garlands, for decorating pandals and places of worship or for showering political and entertainment personalities as gestures of appreciation or donation, should be taken note of seriously without brushing it off with disdain and as routine. While it is a fact, and by RBI’s own admission, that there is a need to improve the quality of currency notes and prolong their life since every currency note changes hands several times a day and the weather contributing its share of damage, the users should not spoil it further. As citizens of this country, it is incumbent upon them to respect the banknotes as they do with other national symbols like the Tricolour. It is not patriotism but holding our own currency in high esteem that should invoke respect for self and the nation.

If the public fail to feel it, the Central government should consider bringing a law against abuse of banknotes since there is no specific provision under the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 or under RBI Act 1934 to curb misuse of currency notes. Both Acts must have been timed out by now and surely they need either revision or replacement to tackle the problem. Otherwise, we continue to live with handling bad currency notes cursing the vendors and the government. Meanwhile, the RBI should seriously think of improvisations such as introducing plastic, instead of paper, currency notes, taking a cue from some countries like Britain and Switzerland to reduce wear and tear.
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