Battle Against Fake Notes Gets Harder As Their Quality Improves
For several reasons, Mumbai is the financial capital of the country. But not everything is positive about it: hidden in that moniker is the fact that it is India’s capital for phoney money. Delhi, on the other hand, comes a close second in the number of fake notes seized from its various dark alleys, but ranks number one when one puts a value to those notes, which really have no worth. In the last few years, the states of Maharashtra and Delhi have contributed to 30% of all counterfeit bills detected in circulation.
Information sought by RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal on fake currency bills reveals that Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal come next on the chart. Each year, the count of fake scrip netted by the police and the Reserve Bank of India rises. In the first six months of this year, about two million fake notes, making up over Rs 100 million, were seized. In all of 2011, about six million counterfeit notes, accounting for Rs 260 million, were seized.
RBI spokesperson Alpana Kilawala said counterfeit notes land up at the RBI from sources such as banks and individuals who come to exchange money. “But central banks all over the world try to stay ahead of forgers; introducing plastic notes is an effort in that direction.”
But the battle against the business of duplicating bills seems to be a losing one. Security agencies say that the quality of fake notes is getting better by the day, which makes it even more difficult to detect them. Counterfeiters use the very imported paper the government uses to print notes, the agencies say. “Around 95% of the features of new fake notes are similar to those of genuine notes. The quality of paper is the same, the colour and the ink are the same; counterfeiters are now trying to meticulously copy the micro-lettering,” said a police officer.
Maharashtra’s security agencies believe that fake notes seized by them in April 2009 were printed in a government printing press in Quetta, Pakistan. Notes of the same series were detected in Uttar Pradesh, with the UP Special Task Force suspecting that most of those were printed in the security press at Malir Cantonment, Karachi, and three other presses in Pakistan.
That summation captures the mainstream opinion among economists and within the expert community that most of the fake currency is flowing in from across the border to destabilize India’s economy. Former Mumbai police commissioner M N Singh said that while most of the currency lands up in metros, where the number of economic transactions is high, the notes initially land in tiny hamlets, where vigilance is low.
“The Bihar, UP and Kolkata routes are no longer used frequently. These have been replaced by Jharkhand. Peerpur village in Sahibganj district has emerged as a prime landing spot. It is 35km from the Bangladesh border,” said a police officer.
In November 2009, the Pydhonie police in Mumbai arrested six youths from Jharkhand and seized fake currency worth Rs 5 lakh. The notes were in denominations of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000. The accused would get a commission of 50% for circulating the fake currency. Each note bore a fake signature of former RBI governor Y V Reddy. In April 2010, the anti-terrorism squad (ATS) arrested six people and seized fake currency worth Rs 4 lakh. Again, the youths belonged to Jharkhand. In September last year, two youths were caught and they, too, were Jharkhand residents.
The Times of India, August 27, 2012