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To Tackle Cash Crunch, Banks in India disbursing Soiled Currency Notes, sprayed with Perfume and Insecticides

Such soiled and damaged notes are usually returned to banks and sent to RBI offices where they are ferried to dumping sites

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New Delhi, November 19, 2016: Battling an unprecedented cash crunch after the government spiked high-value currency notes, banks at various places have been receiving soiled Rs 100 notes for disbursal that were otherwise supposed to be dumped after being taken out of circulation years ago.

Many customers in Delhi complained to IANS that they received some of these soiled and almost mouldy currency notes that in the odd case even smelt bad.

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A bank manager, who wished not to be named, told IANS: “The RBI is sending old 100-rupee notes stored for years but not destroyed, These notes smell. We are spraying them with perfumes and insecticides before disbursing them.”

The manager said that a large number of 100-rupee notes worth millions of rupees have been returned for circulation to narrow down the huge cash demand-supply gap after the November 8 demonetisation of 500- and 1,000-rupee notes — which accounted for 86 per cent of the currency in circulation.

As a normal practice, such soiled and damaged notes are usually returned to banks and sent to RBI offices where they are put into shredder machines and ferried to dumping sites.

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However, it appears that the central bank may not have dumped some of these notes in years and these have now come to the RBI’s rescue in these times of a severe cash crunch.

Long queues outside banks and ATMs continued for the ninth day on Saturday with people jostling to get cash to meet their daily needs.

Although the Finance Ministry and the RBI insist that there are sufficient number of new Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 notes to replace the estimated Rs 14.5 lakh crore sucked out of the economy by the demonetisation, there is clear evidence of a shortage.

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While some attribute this to logistical issues — the problem of getting the new notes to bank branches across the country — others have made calculations, based on the printing capacity of the four currency presses in the country, to contend that the demand-supply mismatch will take anywhere between six and nine months to bridge. (IANS)

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RBI’s Governor Quits After Months of Pressure From The Central Government

The timing just before this week's board meeting suggests that there's still a huge gap between the government and RBI positions on key issues

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Urjit Patel, Bank
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Urjit Patel attends a news conference in Mumbai, India. VOA

The Governor of India’s central bank, Urjit Patel, resigned abruptly Monday after a months-long tussle over policy with the government that has raised concerns about the bank’s independence as a national election nears.

Government officials have been pressuring the Reserve Bank of India to allow some bad-debt-laden public sector banks to lend more easily, and pushed for it to hand over some of its surplus reserves to help fund the fiscal deficit.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which must call national polls by May, faces anger in rural communities because of slumping farm incomes, and broader concerns about a lack of jobs growth in small businesses that are finding it hard to get banks to lend them money.

Getting control of the reserves would give the government more flexibility in spending on welfare policies and farm support schemes.

Patel cited “personal reasons” for his decision to immediately step down.

His resignation came four days before an RBI board meeting, and at a sensitive time for the government.

Bank
Reserve Bank of India. VOA

 

On Tuesday, votes in key state elections are due to be counted, with exit polls suggesting the BJP could suffer some major defeats at the hands of the opposition Congress party.

That scenario, and Patel’s resignation, are expected to roil Indian markets. On Monday, forward contracts tracking the rupee against the dollar outside of market hours posted their biggest fall in more than five years.

That added to earlier losses caused largely by concerns — triggered by the state exit polls — that next year’s election might end with a defeat for the pro-business Modi and a weak coalition government, leading to policy uncertainty.

Investors will want to know quickly who Patel’s replacement will be, and how that will affect the direction of financial and monetary policy, analysts said. There was no clear front-runner, but one name being mentioned was former Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia who retired at the end of November.

While not commenting directly on Patel’s exit, Moody’s Investors Service said on Monday any signs the government was attempting to curtail the RBI’s independence would be a credit negative.

“We currently assume that the RBI will continue to pursue price and financial stability and implement policies towards these goals,” the agency said in an emailed statement.

Modi, Bank
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he addresses a gathering in New Delhi, India. VOA

 

Patel announced his departure in a short statement on the RBI’s website in which he said that “on account of personal reasons, I have decided to step down from my current position effective immediately.”

Modi suggested he had not wanted Patel to leave. On Twitter, the Indian leader praised Patel as a “thorough professional with impeccable integrity.”

“He steered the banking system from chaos to order and ensured discipline. Under his leadership, the RBI brought financial stability,” Modi tweeted. “He leaves behind a great legacy. We will miss him immensely.”

Building for months

Even before Patel’s announcement, the 10-year benchmark Indian government bond yield rose the most since September, and stocks posted their worst close in four weeks, with the broad NSE index losing 1.9 percent.

The pressure on him had been building for some months.

The government has made clear it was not happy with the RBI’s policies and stacked its board with pro-BJP representatives.

Former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan, who did not take an extension after his term ended in September 2016, said Indians should be concerned about what was happening.

farmers, Bank
Police try to stop farmers during a protest demanding a better price for their produce on the outskirts of New Delhi, India. VOA

 

“We should go into the details on why there was an impasse which forced (Patel) to take this ultimate decision,” Rajan told the ET NOW television channel. “The strength of our institution is really important.”

Within the RBI there was a combination of anxiety and relief at the announcement.

“It was very shocking. … Morale of employees is very down,” said one RBI official who has been with the central bank for more than a decade. “This is very sad moment.”

But another official said Patel was often inaccessible to key financial market players and had stifled discussion within the RBI, and that now it might be possible to open up more.

“Finally things will come to peace. I can talk more openly,” this official said.

The officials asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Urjit Patel, Bank
Urjit Patel’s resignation signals dangerous trend: AIBEA. VOA

 

Argentine warning

The rift between the government and the central bank became very public in late October when RBI Deputy Governor Viral Acharya warned in a speech that undermining a central bank’s autonomy could be “catastrophic.”

He referred to a meltdown in Argentina’s financial markets in 2010 after a struggle between the government and the central bank over who controlled the bank’s reserves.

Last week, Patel declined to answer reporters’ questions about the rift with the government, which former government officials and analysts said they were convinced was a major factor in his decision to quit.

Also Read: Arvind Kejriwal Accuses Modi Government of Betraying Farmers

There was speculation a month ago that Patel might quit over the government pressure, but the rumors eased after the two sides reached an uneasy truce ahead of last month’s RBI board meeting.

“The timing just before this week’s board meeting suggests that there’s still a huge gap between the government and RBI positions on key issues,” said A. Prasanna, head of research at ICICI Securities Primary Dealership in Mumbai. “Markets will now hope that the government has a plan of action ready so as to restore calm.” (VOA)