At 8 pm on Tuesday, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his first ever televised address to the nation, there was a great deal of curiosity among the people. This particular broadcast was not widely publicized, as is the norm for any such broadcast. Nor was it preceded by some occasion that would otherwise warrant a prime ministerial address of such a nature. Halfway through his speech, Modi dropped the bombshell, surprising or more aptly shocking the nation at large. In what could be called a surgical strike against battling counterfeit notes, he announced that at the stroke of midnight on 8 November 2016, the Rs.500 and Rs.1000 currency notes would be discontinued.
If this is not the biggest ever embargo on black money, I don’t know what is. No one could have ever imagined such an audacious move. Perhaps, no such emergency measure has been employed anywhere else in the world. It felt so implausible that most of just dismissed this news as fake. But the concerned calls of friends and relatives had us turn on the news and watch our PM kick black-marketers with counterfeit notes right where it hurt like a true boss.
The Battle Against Counterfeit and its Toll on the Common Man
The move will surely cause temporary inconvenience to most citizens of the country. Short term restrictions on ATM usage, limits on the maximum amount withdrawn from ATMs, banks being closed for public transactions on Wednesday have surely caused discomfort to the general public. Moreover, as India is a currency based economy, where the daily wage earners and causal low income group workers are paid in Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denominations. They will be hard pressed to understand the new mechanism and will end up queuing outside banks. Small traders and hawkers have to pick goods and pay cash, to sell or to sustain their livelihood. They would not know how to react to this move or how to survive in the next few days. But in all honesty, we hope the citizens will see the bigger picture.
This could possibly explain why Modi was so insistent on opening bank accounts for all Indians. He may or may not have planned it that way, but the move certainly had its own merits. As one can perceive it, there would be no parallel economy in the country for the months and years to come. It was all done away with in one single stroke. Real estate dealers and magnates, political parties of all hues – particularly those contesting in the elections due in a few months – the bullion market and so on, would be the worst affected by the move.
“There comes a time in the history of a country’s development when a need is felt for a strong and decisive step. For years, this country has felt that corruption, black money, and terrorism are festering sores, holding us back in the race towards development. The magnitude of cash in circulation is directly linked to the level of corruption. Inflation becomes worse through the deployment of cash earned in corrupt ways. In spite of all these efforts, there may be temporary hardships faced by honest citizens. Experience tells us that ordinary citizens are always ready to make sacrifices and face difficulties for the benefit of the nation,” Modi said in his address to the nation.
The fact that a decision of this magnitude was kept hushed is a remarkable achievement on part of Modi and his select team. The timing of the announcement was also critical. By the time he made this announcement, most shops usually shut down their shutters; thereby, leaving no time for black money hoarders to engage in high value shopping or find other means to dispose of their counterfeit notes.
Sab Ka Sarkaar, Sab Ka Vikas!
The PM stressed on “Sab ka sarkaar, sab ka vikas”. He mentioned that the governance and progress for all is the motto. The PM further said that his focus was on the empowerment of the poor and that corruption, black money and counterfeit notes are diseases rooted in this country and that they are obstacles to the nation’s success. Despite being one of the fastest-growing economies, the country ranks high in global corruption rankings. Further, the PM put forth a grave question that made his decision on banning 500 and 1000 rupees even more important. The honorable PM asked “Who funds terrorists?” As the nation watched on, he answered his own question “Across the border, our enemy uses fake currency and dodgy funds to sponsor terror – this has been proven repeatedly.” And the PM most obviously intends to put a stop to it.
And the PM most obviously intends to put a stop to it.
The move is also part of Modi’s efforts to crack down on tax evasion. Under the government’s income disclosure scheme, which ended in September, holders of undeclared income and assets were given an amnesty from criminal charges in exchange for voluntarily coming forward and paying 45% tax and a penalty. In August the government passed the goods and services bill, which brought India’s 1.25 billion-strong population into a single market for the first time, and amalgamated various state taxes into a single, all-encompassing tax.
With this announcement, Modi is emphasizing his reputation as a leader who has fought corruption and strengthened the economy. He said: “When [the BJP] was elected in 2014, there was a discussion among the BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India, and China] nations, that the ‘I’ among the Brics was wobbling. But India is now a star, a bright spot and that is a claim made not by us, but by the IMF and the World Bank.”
Social Media and the Back-fence Talk
Setting aside the political aspect, within hours of this breaking news, our WhatsApp chats and Facebook feeds were teeming with messages both lauding and criticizing the PM’s decision. Some even ventured out to say that the new higher denomination currency comes with a Nano-GPS chip installed on it. The message claimed that these notes are embedded with Nano-GPS chips which act as a signal reflector, giving precise location coordinates of the currency in order to allow every note to be tracked. Apparently, the chip is so strong that one can track these Rs2000 notes even if they are kept 120 meters below the ground level.
So what does the RBI have to say about this?
Nothing but that these kind of news are as fake as they can be.
So Then What Is the Real Deal About the New Currency Notes?
Here you go:
- The new note measures 166 x 66 mm, slightly smaller than the ₹1,000 denomination which was measured at 177 x 73 mm.
- The color of the new note is magenta.
- Newly designed intaglio or raised printing of Mahatma Gandhi portrait, Ashoka Pillar emblem, bleed lines and identity mark. It has raised printing, which was also present in the earlier notes.
- There is a horizontal rectangle with 2000 in raised print on the right. This looks different from a diamond for ₹1000 note seen on the left-hand side.
- There are seven angular bleed lines on left and right side in raised print.
- The note has a see through register with denominational numeral 2000 on the left-hand side. This sees through panel used to be in the middle of the ₹1000 notes.
- Latent image with denominational numeral 2000 at the bottom left which can be seen when the note is tilted at 45 degrees.
- Denominational numeral 2000 in Devnagari which was not present earlier in the denomination of 1000.
- Portrait of Mahatma Gandhi has moved to the center instead of the right-hand side.
- Windowed security thread with inscriptions s ‘भारत’, RBI and 2000 on banknotes with color shift. Colour of the thread changes from green to blue when the note is tilted
Apart from these 10, here are the other specifications that the RBI has released
- Guarantee Clause, Governor’s signature with Promise Clause and RBI emblem towards right. This is moved from the center-bottom earlier and is now placed in a vertical manner instead of horizontal one.
- Denominational numeral with Rupee Symbol, 2000 in color changing ink (green to blue) on the bottom right instead of big fonts for 1000 at the center.
- Ashoka Pillar emblem on the right Mahatma Gandhi portrait and electrotype (2000) watermarks moved from the left.
- Number panel with numerals growing from small to big on the top left side and bottom right side. This change will make the forging of the note tougher as the varying size of the numerals were not present in the earlier versions of the currency.
- The authorities have redesigned the backside completely with new logos and motifs along with the color.
- Year of printing of the note on the left.
- Swachh Bharat logo with the slogan.
- Language panel towards the center.
- The motif of Mangalayan.
- Denominational situated at the left-hand side.
The new notes would be available for circulation from 10 November. RBI has said that the roll out will take place gradually so that there is enough awareness around.
Well, let’s hope that Achhe din aane waale hain…