Time for India to have a new currency design?
As I begin to write this article, I am reminded of the countless instances of people moaning about the aesthetics of the new Rs2,000 note. I have a friend sitting across me complaining about the same but I will have to ask him to leave me alone for I have read and heard so much that I no longer wish to engage on this subject. 
 
I feel assured that the problem is that the common man is not feeling empowered on holding the new notes. Our currency note should make us feel empowered, - a perceived value of strength and confidence that comes with having physical money. Currency notes are nothing but money held and felt by the hand and fingers. And money is as money does.
 
Since the launch of the new Rs2,000 currency note, I have asked this question to dozens of people and everybody agrees that empowerment is a significant psychological feeling, which is experienced when a person holds a currency. Hence, I feel that the time has come to relook at all our currency notes and see if they can be redesigned in a manner in which they empower our citizens.
 
In the digital world, when we decide to redesign a website, a mobile app or an IT platform, we ask two fundamental questions. The first - is the redesign going to be just limited to aesthetic changes or will it be transformational, which is a significant jump to reflect needs of the changing times. If the need is transformational, then anything and everything should be open to change. We need to ask similar questions in the redesign of our currency notes.
 
In my opinion, a good currency design must satisfy three fundamental principles: 
a) Currency design should be aesthetically appealing 
b) Notes should incorporate all available modern print-based security features to prevent counterfeits 
c) Physical design should make it easy to use by all sections of society.
 
Just focusing on any one of the aforementioned aspects dilutes the empowerment that people are looking from their currency notes. In fact, missing on any of the aspects will leave the note incomplete and reduce the confidence that every citizen has in these notes. The real balance lies in the synthesis of aesthetics, security and physical design. It is a crucial balance,  which is difficult to achieve but not impossible. 
 
So where do we begin? There is a quantum leap, an advancement that has been made in the area of digital design in the past few decades that can be harnessed to make our currency design an award winning spectacle. Its appeal can and should rouse a feeling of belonging in our pockets. Our currency note can also act as the de-facto business card of our nation. The design should reflect the country’s collective ethos and connect the rich legacy embodied in our culture with the aspirations of our citizens. 
 
The need for a secure currency note cannot be overemphasized. We must look beyond the features of ultra-violet (UV) thread, watermark and intaglio.
 
Counterfeit notes have been in existence since the time the first currency note was introduced in the world. As long as there are gangs or rogue groups wanting to counterfeit fake notes, all currency notes are vulnerable to having counterfeits. Central banks worldwide are working assiduously every day to make their notes difficult to counterfeit. 
 
Economic considerations teach us that the more secure we make our note, the higher the cost of production. Nonetheless, in the past few years, more than 13 high-tech features have been invented in the domain of currency security and employing all or most of them will help us make our notes secure and very difficult to counterfeit. 
 
While security features - both the visual and apparent and hidden - are necessary, it is imperative that our new notes are also well suited to our physical environment. Dimensions are the most crucial aspect in making us feel empowered with our currency notes. An ideal size is one, which the nation’s billion people are comfortable with. Size consideration must involve factors like ATM and vending machine flexibility, ease of transportation, storage and wallet and pocket size. Although the global trend is towards smaller dimensions, our benchmark here should be our own nation and not an emulation of the size of currency notes in other countries. 
 
A well thought-out, modern redesign to reinvent the Indian currency notes, which can serve us over the next 50-80 years is the need of the hour.
 
(Faisal Farooqui is the CEO of MouthShut.com. He has a passion for public policy, technology and design.)
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    COMMENTS

    Rakesh Kaul

    4 years ago

    The new UK, Australian and New Zealand currency, apart from change in design, have put some eye-catching optical elements into the notes which is said are very easy to identify for the common man but very hard to counterfeit. India should also consider such a security feature.

    rashmi fauzdar

    4 years ago

    While I agree that the new note particularly of Rs. 2000 is not very attractive considering the value involved , I think feature wise it is and would be no less than currency of any other currency. No central banker can afford to compromise on the same and RBI is no different. By making the size smaller RBI has made it easier to load in ATM, transport and store in currency boxes across the country /bank vaults and carry in wallets. By making it small, the cost of printing a note would also come down.

    S S Cheema

    4 years ago

    I went to Australia and was impressed by the Dollars that were plastic. I just walked in the ocean to have a swim with money in my pocket and after I sat down in the evening I wondered - why cannot we have a currency that will not get spoiled when in water, cannot be torn (unless nicked in corner) or spoiled. I am sure if country like Australia and numerous other countries have notes like this then we too can do it. I am sure that counterfeiting them will not be easy. Besides that I realise that cost of printing will be more but we have to weigh it with the fact that lesser notes will be spoiled and destroyed over a period of time. I was disappointed when we got the new currency and it was same 'print on paper' variety and prayed that when we have a think tank of billions I am sure there would have been someone who would have weighed in to have a better currency.

    REPLY

    Anand Vaidya

    In Reply to S S Cheema 4 years ago

    India will be getting its plastic notes soon, as in few months. There are already plans to run a pilot in 5 cities. So good news coming soon

    S S Cheema

    In Reply to Anand Vaidya 4 years ago

    That would be a good news indeed

    Demonetisation: ICAI probing 4 CAs for misconduct, asks members not to criticise note ban
    The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) says it has issued notices on four of its member CAs for their "alleged acts of professional misconduct" following demonetisation of Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes. At the same time, the Institute advised its members to refrain from criticising the demonetisation drive. The letter, (copy of which is with Moneylife), sent to members on 9 December 2016, however, was not traceable on ICAI website http://www.icai.org/ on Saturday after it came in for a storm of criticism on social media. However, a complete reading of the letter shows that it is not as bad as it seems — other than the one controversial line that attempts to gag its members, the rest of the letter is an advisory to members to maintain high ethical standards and not help their clients in laundering money. 
     
    In the letter sent to members, ICAI President M Devaraja Reddy says, "All members are, once again, advised to be more cautious and careful while advising their clients, sharing or writing of their views on any platform regarding demonetisation and work towards the best interest of the nation in keeping with true spirit of the principle of ICAI - 'Partner in Nation Building'."
     
    ICAI says till date it noticed six cases of alleged misconduct from its members and under the provisions of disciplinary mechanism, had issued notices to four. It says, "...these CAs -- whose identity has not been revealed -- have been served notice under the Chartered Accountants Act, 1949 and Chartered Accountants (Procedure of Investigations of Professional and Other Misconduct and Conduct of Cases) Rules 2007. Apart from the three CAs served notice, two more cases are also in process for initiating similar disciplinary action by the ICAI."
     
    In one case, the ICAI has sought information from Principal Commissioner of the Income Tax Department at Pune. In another case, the details have been solicited from the Income Tax Department in Ahmedabad while the ICAI has sought information from a private television channel, News18 India, in a third case, Mr Reddy says in the letter..
     
    "It is a matter of grave concern and distress to our profession when certain news reports or video clippings have come in the public eye depicting certain CAs indulging in such acts of illegality which go against the efforts of the government in eradicating corruption and black money from business and commercial transactions," Mr Reddy said in a sharp advisory to the ICAI members.
     
    Mr Reddy spoilt an otherwise good advisory asking members ‘to watch the national interest as the uppermost while advising their clients’, but tagging a gag order to it. He goes on to say, "…members are strictly advised not to indulge in any nefarious act to subvert the intentions of the government in any remote possible way". It now appears that ICAI has had second thoughts on the gag. 
     
    ICAI, a statutory body set up by an act of parliament, has over 2.50 lakh members as fellows or associates with more than half in fulltime practice. The maximum members hail from western India while eastern India accounts for the lowest membership of ICAI.
     
    Here is the letter sent by ICAI President to all members...
     
     
     
     
    UPDATED 12 December 2016:
    ICAI has withdrawn the controversial letter and reissued other without the gag order.
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    COMMENTS

    Suketu Shah

    4 years ago

    One fraud CA I know has 2 pan cards-one before marriage and 1 after.She uses both but declares only 1 to ITax .She runs CA professions.Its like a doctor suffering from cancer trying to cure patients.

    Suketu Shah

    4 years ago

    ICAI's actions are right.A few of their members as professional CA's as their alibi their main source of income is black/white hawala,property theft,etc and thereby they spoil the name of esteemed ICAI.Congrats to ICAI for such a step.Already we have seen a few CA's caught in illegal acts in demonitisation recently.

    Kuldip Singh

    4 years ago

    I think the Government is in panic mode. Most intellectuals are wary of the consequences of demonetisation.
    What is really frightening is the gag order. I understand BJP members are not allowed to speak their minds. However, to extend this to a professional body is indeed worrisome.

    Rs70 lakh in new currency seized in raids on postal official's kin
    The CBI recovered Rs70 lakh in new currency near Hyderabad during raids on relatives of a postal official who was earlier arrested for allegedly being involved in fraudulent exchange of new currency notes, police said on Saturday.
     
    The cash, all in new notes of Rs2,000, was seized on Friday during raids in Ibrahimpatnam in Ranga Reddy district.
     
    The raids came a day after a special court in Hyderabad sent K. Sudheer Babu, senior superintendent of a post office in Hyderabad to judicial custody till December 23.
     
    Sudheer Babu had surrendered before the Central Bureau of Investigation on Thursday.
     
    Two others, Nitin and Narasimha Reddy, who acted as middlemen, were also arrested and sent to judicial remand.
     
    The CBI registered three cases and arrested four accused, including Sudheer Babu.
     
    Sudheer Babu allegedly handed over new currency notes of Rs2,000 denomination and valued Rs2.95 crore to middlemen for a commission.
     
    He had taken the new currency notes from the money sent to the postal department for exchange of demonetised notes of Rs500 and  Rs1,000.
     
    The CBI has also booked cases against two assistant in the office of senior superintendent of post office and officials of three post offices in Hyderabad for committing irregularities in criminal conspiracy with Sudheer Babu.
     
    The investigating agency had earlier recovered Rs17.02 lakh in new currency notes of Rs2,000 denomination.
     
    It is likely to seek custody of the main accused for further investigations in the case.
     
    Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
     

     

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