In the time of demonetisation, it is the small change that comes to the rescue

The Income Tax Department may not tax, penalise or even frown at much of the hoarded money that is coming out — the small change — the coins of Re 1, Rs 2, 5, and 10. They are being taken out of that corner drawer or the kid’s piggybank after replenishing it with a crisp Rs 2,000 bank note.

“Look, how nice it looks. Pink and not a crease or an ink spot. Now, there is more room for coins,” is usually the explanation given to the suspicious child. After a pause, comes the qualifier: “Later”. Heaven knows when that “later” would arrive.

It was both scarce and plentiful. Even at the counter of the supermarket, which does 12 hours of brisk business, you proffered a note, including the denominated notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000, and the cashier would say,  “Change, sir?”

 In the time of demonetisation, it is the small change that comes to the rescue

Representational image. Reuters.

You insist and they would bring out the coins and give you the change. Like you and every other shopkeeper, they too hoarded, because of two reasons. The shopkeepers bought them at a commission, Rs 15 for every Rs 100 from moneychangers who include beggars. You did not carry them around because they weighed down your pocket.

Now they are back in respect.

The other day, my bank gave me Rs 1,000 in coins, as many as 100 of the shiny Rs 10 in a nicely sealed plastic bag. The wife grabbed it as anything other than Rs 2,000 bank note was welcome. Because, between Rs 100 and the Rs 2,000 currency notes, there isn’t any currency-stifling transactions.

There was a time you liked crisp bank notes, but seldom got any, be it from the bank where a cheque was encashed or across the counter from a shop or a superstore. You settled for whatever was provided, even the most battered notes.

There was also preference for higher denomination notes of Rs 100 and 500, and even Rs 1,000. Since Rs 10 fetched very little, it did not count for much and a Rs 50 note was just alright. So was the denomination of Rs 20. The idea was not to physically fatten the wallet.

Wallets have to be fat by virtue of its value, not grammage. When we spend for thinner, lighter mobile phones, never mind its length and breadth, but consider the thinness a desired quality, thick wallets are passé.

Who wanted the coins! It lasted a journey back home to rest in a small pile, and if you had a grandchild, into his or her piggybank. Even beggars frowned at the Re 1, Rs 2, and didn’t mind the Rs 5 coins, and the Rs 10 isn’t as much in circulation. Even the beggar suffers the weight of inflation and the ignominy of having to stretch a palm.

The coins were after all chillar. It has its demeaning nuance.

Post-denomination, most of us came close to stretching our palms after waiting in the queue without instigating a riot due to the cash crunch. If the banks didn’t readily part with your money to you, how would a neighbour?

The days of the small loan are over. At least in the short term. It is for the Reserve Bank of India to determine what that ‘short term’ means. You have lost control of your money, so why not let the central bank decide on the timeline? Anyhow, you have the other time on mind – the time you would need to spend in a queue outside an ATM which disgorges only the Rs 2,000 note.

Disgorge is not mot juste here. It only reluctantly tosses out one.

The curious aspect of queues outside ATMs is where the machine is stocked with Rs 100 notes. The attempt is to draw Rs 1,900 and Rs 2,000. That big-daddy bank note is money you cannot use much. It is a limited attempt at gaming the system.

Updated Date: Dec 13, 2016 14:46:11 IST