Culture

A Most-Sought-After Currency Note is Back, But At What a Cost

New Delhi: Be it Kucha Mahajani at Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi or the galli adjoining the Reserve Bank of India at Parliament Street in New Delhi, the Rupee 1 note continues to be the most hotly traded currency in the country. With the government having discontinued its printing about 20 years ago, one rupee notes trade today at several times their face value – depending on the year of printing and condition – and traders carrying bags full of new notes can be heard here calling out the rates.

But with the Centre now resuming the printing of one rupee notes through the Security Printing and Minting Corporation Limited (SPMCIL), the premium traders charge is bound to get impacted.

However, as far as the exchequer goes, the new one rupee note does not make any economic sense as it costs the government Rs 1.14 a piece to print.

It was in response to an application filed under the Right to Information Act by activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal that SPMCIL has revealed the cost of producing the new note. Incidentally, this happens to be the only currency note being printed by India which costs more to produce than its face value.

In its response to a separate plea by the RTI activist, the Bhartiya Reserve Bank Note Mudran Private Limited (BRBNMPL) disclosed that the printing cost of a 1,000 rupee note is Rs 2.96; a 500 rupee note is Rs 2.89;  a 100 rupee note is Rs 1.28; a 50 rupee note is Rs 1.13, a 20 rupee note is 99 paise and a Rs 10 note is only 75 paise.

Questioning the logic behind printing the new one rupee notes despite their high cost, Agarwal says that instead of reducing the size of the currency notes of other denominations – which were last reduced about half-a-century back – the regressive step of re-launching the lower denomination currency would result in a two-way loss to the exchequer, since it has a short life span and also costs more to print.

“An enquiry should be made if [this] retrogressive step of re-issuing costly one-rupee notes was taken so that the signature of the top bureaucrat of the Union Finance Ministry may appear on these notes for becoming a historical feature in future,” he says, demanding that the printing of these notes be stopped forthwith. This, he said, would also pave the way for reducing the size of other currency notes, resulting in significant savings in printing costs.

Agarwal has also suggested that the present print-stock of one-rupee notes can be sold in attractive plastic-packing only at premium-price as souvenirs, rather than putting these in actual circulation because the limited number of printed one-rupee notes will otherwise not come into circulation as people are likely to stock them as collectors’ items.

It is not uncommon to find large number of old one rupee bundles being put up for sale by collectors on e-commerce sites. With one rupee notes considered auspicious by many Hindus, who also like to use notes while giving `shagun’, there is a huge market for them. Many bankers and ordinary citizens also keep bundles of these notes for use at the time of the marriage of their children. These notes are also woven into currency garlands.

This trade is not clandestine with sites openly selling one rupee notes, sometimes at a hefty premium of up to Rs 400 a piece.

Categories: Culture, Economy

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