In an exclusive expose, Mahima goes into the by-lanes of Old Delhi to find out why the new currency notes are not reaching the mango people through ATMs. These are sold to the garland makers of the wedding market, obviously for a bribe. Read about it, in the regular column, exclusively for Different Truths.
Making garlands of currency notes, a practice followed in Indian marriages and public rallies, has been discouraged by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Every year the RBI appeals: “The Reserve Bank of India has appealed to members of public not to use banknotes for making garlands, decorating pandals and places of worship or for showering on personalities in social events, etc. Banknotes should be respected as they are a symbol of the Sovereign and public should not misuse them, and help in increasing the life of banknotes.”
But the appeal falls on deaf ears! And I stumbled on this fact, as my in-laws’ old house is close to the Sadar Bazaar, Delhi – a hub of the goods and supplies of the NCR. And also one of the manufacturing hubs of the currency note garlands, especially for the upcoming weddings season.
Yes, while you and I struggle to get our hands of the new currency notes in circulation, I wonder how these shop owners lay their hands on the new notes of Rs. 200/- Rs 50/- and Rs 10/- ! Let’s hear it from some of them, who agreed to talk on conditions of anonymity.
One of the biggest one in business told us, “Each garland is sold at 40% profit of which 10-15% goes to the bank manager or the cashier on the bank counter, who supplies these to us.” But how does that happen in broad daylight in the presence of other customers? The other shop owners of currency note garland reveal, “The transaction is mostly done during the lunch hours, when the bank is closed for public transactions and the time of transaction is always punched into the computer post the lunch hour.”
Another one reveals, “At times, we simply submit the transaction slip at the counter. The money exchanges hands at the locker zone, where public hardly arrives. The manager who times our deal in such a manner that no one spots us.”
Despite trying to dig out a few names of the banks, all I managed to find out that this exchange of new currency happens through public sector banks and not the private ones, in this particular area.
I try to probe further. The fear of being caught is visible to others. Threats start pouring in, “Madam, we have told you. You have to show us the camera. We can’t trust you. No shop names, no person’s names. Mind it or you will be in big trouble. We have the business going on for ages and we know how to handle people like you.”
My husband signals that it is time to move on. I am an independent journalist who might be harmed easily to cover up the currency racket,
But I wonder, how such things escape the eyes other journalists, who are free to write or shoot the ugly truth and that too under protection from their media houses.
Was the pain of demonetisation inflicted upon us as a nation to tolerate this once again?
If not, then how is it happening under the nose of various state governments in various parts of India? The shopkeepers tell me, currency garland on weddings or other occasions is rampant in North India. Are the state governments also hand-in-glove with the currency mafia? Or is it the general silence of the public, which is encourages such malpractices.
I interacted with a few lawyers, to learn how deep the rot in the system is.
Supreme Court Advocate AA Shah Biraan says, “There is no specific provision under the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, or under RBI Act, 1934 to check or prevent such misuse of currency notes.”
But is there no provision to punish such people who are behind this illegal stashing away of the new currency notes, violating the RBI’s pleas. We, as people, try to show off wearing such garlands.
We hope you will share this ugly underbelly of the Indian Economy, which was supposed to get a boost with demonetisation. Let more voices question this illegal practice, in the name of wedding rituals.
Photos by the author and from the Internet
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A science graduate from Delhi University and MA in Mass Communication, Mahima began her career with E-Lexicon PR & Mutual PR and Hindustan Times. Soon, ANI (a collaboration with Reuters) got her aboard, where she spread her wings in TV, Print & Digital Journalism. In 2010 Rajdeep Sardesai’s flagship primetime show gave her, a dream job at CNN-IBN. From May 2017, she is a freelance journalist. She is a poet and a Sufi at heart.