In the light of the Modi government’s bold move to render notes of denominations of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 illegal tender starting today, many Indians are feeling a distinct cash crunch. As a result, there have been some interesting questions being asked online. How are we going to pay for our long auto rides and Cash On Delivery purchases now? Do they really expect us to carry around only hundreds? How will I sit comfortably on my insanely thick wallet? #BlackMoneyMatters
We decided to look to the past for answers and some of the factoids about our currency notes are extremely interesting.
What you are looking at is the first bank note of Independent India. These were first released in 1949, along with the Rs 10 note, and later in the different denominations in 1950.
Notes of all denominations issued by the Reserve Bank of India after independence have the Ashoka Pillar and the seal of the RBI. Also, on one side of all notes, below the Ashoka Pillar, we have inscribed Satyameva Jayate – a reminder of where our values lie.
Turns out that demonetization of notes isn’t something new. Denominations of Rs 500, Rs 1,000, Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 were demonetized in 1946 – just prior to Independence. These denominations were re-introduced from 1954 only to be demonetized again in 1978. From 1978 to 1987, our highest denomination was the humble Rs 100 note. And you know what? We did just fine.
Notes of Rs 500 were re-introduced on 23 October, 1987 with a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi. If only Gandhiji knew that his image would be widely used in corrupt dealings from here on, he might not have been as non-violent as he was. This joined the rest of the Mahatma Gandhi series of bank notes, which include the denominations of Rs 10, Rs 20, Rs 50 and Rs 100.
It took 22 years for the Rs 1,ooo note to make a comeback, but it finally did in 2000. Such a large denomination signalled India’s growing power on the world economic stage.
And now, in 2016, things have changed again. These are the new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 notes. These, too, will be a part of the Mahatma Gandhi series of bank notes, but they mark a distinct switch to a currency that’s more in keeping with the times.
If you haven’t already noticed, the new Rs 500 note features a modern aesthetic. But that isn’t all – flip the new Rs 2,000 note around and you’ll find the Swachh Bharat logo and a motif of Mangalyaan, depicting India’s first venture into interplanetary space. If that isn’t cool, we don’t know what is.
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Images Courtesy: Indian Banknote