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Small coins, double premium
Gangs melt them for nickel
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 28
If you are a retailer or trader, keep your coins carefully. They will help you fetch more money. Gangs are on the prowl, paying traders Rs 1.50 - Rs 2 for each Re 1 coin and Rs 2.80-Rs 4 for every Rs 2 coin.

With the Re 1 and Rs 2 coins having suddenly disappeared from circulation, several gangs are now collecting these coins from shopkeepers in the region for the intrinsic value of the metal content in these coins. With the cuperonickle (with copper and nickle metals) coins having a good quantity of nickel, the prices of which have touched an all time high of Rs 2500 per kg, these gangs are collecting the coins and melting them to extract nickel and sell it in the market.

The gangs are not just restricted to the traders in the urban areas, but have appointed “sub-agents” in the semi-urban areas to collect coins from people by moving from door-to-door. In Mubarakpur near Dera Bassi, one such “sub-agent” has been collecting the coins by paying the gullible villagers Rs 2 for every Re 1 coin and Rs 4 for every Rs 2 coin (old coin).

Blame it on hoarding of coins for extracting their metal content, or their use in artificial jewellery or as washers in machinery, hundreds of thousands of customers in the region are being “short-changed”. Though cases of units being raided where these coins were being melted to extract nickel have been reported in recent months, the use of Re 1 and Rs 2 coins in artificial jewellery after being oxidized has also come to light. The latest Rs 2 coin that was introduced in the market recently is now finding use for making the A-grade blades, while the 50 paisa coins are being used as washers in machinery.

With this artificially created scarcity of coins in the market, it is the common man who is the real loser. More often than ever before, he is simply offered sweets for the change money that any shopkeeper owes him after deducting the bill for the goods bought. Other than the Rs 5 coins, which are not in demand for other purposes, be sure that you will be offered sweets for Re 1 or Rs 2 coins.

This misuse of coins has forced the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to restrain in its supply of coins. Bankers in the region, especially those in-charge of the currency chests, informed TNS that for the past over five months they have not received any coins from the RBI. A top official in the PNB, on condition of anonymity, informed TNS, that though they have been regularly sending indents to the RBI for getting bags of coins (one bag of Re 1 coins has 2500 pieces, while a bag of Rs 2 coins has 2500 pieces), no coins have been sent to them. His views were supported by officials at the SBI, who informed TNS that because of the shortage, they have been forced to close down their coin dispensers. “Only those dispensers which can dispense Rs 5 coins are functional,” he said.

Interestingly, the banks which have their extension counters near some shrines or religious places, where coins are offered to deities, are now the only ones that have coins available with them. These coins are now being transferred to the other currency chests of the bank to deal with the shortage.

Senior officials in the RBI, when contacted by TNS, said that there was no shortage in supply of coins, though an artificial shortage had been created by unscrupulous elements. “In several coins, we have replaced the metal content to avoid their hoarding and melting down by unscrupulour elements. There are 350 currency chests in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, and we have asked all currency chests to ensure that the public gets the coins and is not inconvenienced.

Regular camps are also being organised with banks, for supply of coins. By the second week of June, we will get a fresh supply of coins from the mint, which will be released to the banks in the region,” he said.



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