14 ARRESTED : In last two years across India; two alleged Bangladeshis with fake notes killed in encounter
THE LASHKAR LINK :An LeT terrorist in J&K caught talking to his handlers in Pak in January 2008 about fake notes
Around Rs 1,69,000 crore of fake money is in the system. And it’s growing. TOI looks into the growing threat* Last month, when Maharashtra crime branch and anti-terrorism squad sleuths caught six persons with counterfeit currency worth over Rs 9 lakh, they themselves couldn’t make out the difference between the fake and genuine notes. “They have 95% features of genuine notes,’’ says an official. The provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) have been invoked—for the first time against fake currency.
* Zahoor Ahmad Mir of Rawalpora, Srinagar, withdrew Rs 2,000 from an ATM. He was told by a shopkeeper after his weekend shopping that the currency was fake. A frantic Zahoor rushed to the bank, the ATM of which had coughed up the 500-rupee notes. “But the bank officials refused to accept them. They suspected I had got the fake notes from somewhere else,’’ he says.
The proliferation of fake Rs 500 notes has just got bigger. You never know when you are holding one—or more. Even ATMs are disgorging them, indicating the counterfeits are so good that bankers are failing to detect them. Despite measures taken by RBI, the home ministry and intelligence agencies, the fear of the fake has grown—from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, from Gujarat to Assam.
Officials say there’s a high volume of fake notes of Rs 100, Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 in the market, and that they have had limited success so far in controlling their spread. The Naik committee, set up to assess the menace of fake currency, says counterfeit money worth around Rs 1,69,000 crore is sloshing around the system. And just a tiny fraction of it, Rs 63 crore, has been seized.
Both the government and common people are aware of the problem, but feel ill-equipped to deal with it. In Chandigarh, traders, bank employees and petrol pump attendants turn suspicious whenever they get a Rs 500 note. “A petrol station attendant refused to accept the Rs 500 note I gave him and warned me about the glut of fake notes in the market,’’ said Rajinder Singh, a local resident. Even in Delhi, shopkeepers take extra time to accept high-denomination notes. They first hold the note against bright light and ensure that the water-mark is intact.
Many in Kerala are worried over outsourcing loading of currency in the ATMs to private agencies.”My salary account is with a private bank and I also have a savings account with SBI. Lest I get a counterfeit note, I have now started transferring money only by cheques,’’ says A K Nair, a government employee.
“The extent of the problem can be gauged from the huge gap between actual seizures and circulation of fake Indian currency notes (FICN). Although several steps have been taken by the finance ministry and RBI, weeding out FICNs may take a long time,’’ says a senior home ministry official.
With inputs from Vishwa Mohan & Richi Verma (Delhi), Mateen Hafiz (Mumbai), Pervez Iqbal Siddiqui (Lucknow), Anantha Krishnan, (Thiruvananthapuram), Anand Bodh (Chandigarh) and Gauree Malkarlekar (Panaji)
The Times of India, July 31, 2009