RBI staff holidays cut to count demonetised notes: Urjit Patel tells House panel

The RBI governor gave this information at a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance when a member specifically asked him to give details of the value of the junked notes.

On November 8 2016, the government announced scrapping of  Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes, which comprised 86.9% of the currency in circulation that time.
On November 8 2016, the government announced scrapping of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes, which comprised 86.9% of the currency in circulation that time.

The Reserve Bank of India is still counting the demonetised currency returned to it and it also can’t say how much black money has been recovered, governor Urjit Patel has told a parliamentary panel.

Patel, who appeared before a parliamentary standing committee on finance on Wednesday, failed to give an estimate of the fake currency recovered, sources said.

In a sudden decision, the Modi government had on November 8 announced scrapping of 500 and 1,000 rupee notes, taking out 86% of all cash from the economy, disrupting economic activity in Asia’s third-largest economy.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said the move was aimed at weeding out black money and choking counterfeit currency that was being to fund terrorist activities.

Patel couldn’t provide to the panel, chaired by Congress leader M Veerappa Moily, a date by which the Reserve Bank of India would come out with the exact amount of the money deposited.

Prior to November 8, the currency in circulation was Rs 17.7 lakh crore. It now stands at Rs 15.4 lakh crore.

On the day demonetisation was announced, 17,165 million pieces of Rs 500 notes and 6,858 million pieces of Rs 1,000 notes were in circulation, according to an SBI report.

Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh, one of the vocal critics of demonetisation, asked if the RBI would be able provide the details before May 2019, when the Modi government’s term ends.

Patel told the panel the RBI was using 39 counting machines and had hired seven more machines. “Even with some many machines, it is taking time as we also have to keep count of the fake notes. We have decided to buy some more counting machines,” sources quoted him as saying.

The bank had cut staff holidays and they were working “round the clock” except on Sundays to count the notes.

Some panel members, including Biju Janata Dal’s Bhartruhari Mahtab, Samajwadi Party’s Naresh Agarwal, flagged concern over the recent farmer agitation in Madhya Pradesh and other states, saying the farm distress was reportedly linked to the unavailability of cash in rural India following demonetisation. Trinamool’s Saugata Ray alleged “even now, rural bank branches are giving only Rs 1,000 if a farmer asks for Rs 5,000”, sources said.

The RBI would give more cash to busy rural branches, Patel said.

There was a 50-day window -- from November 9 to December 30 -- for the exchange of old notes at banks and post offices. After December 30, designated offices of the RBI accepted the scrapped currency till June 30.

Indians who were abroad during the 50-day period were given a three-month grace period, till March 31, to deposit the old notes. In the case of NRIs, the deadline was June 30.


Responding to a clutch of petitions, the Supreme Court on July 4 asked the government and the RBI to consider granting a window to those who couldn’t exchange old notes for “genuine reasons”.
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