The new Rs 20 coin says more about the economy than the new Budget does

Here’s your 20 rupees change, the shopkeeper said, handing me a coin. It’s the new 20 rupees, he added.

And sure enough it was. Stamped on the shiny metal was a big, bold 20. Let alone having come across one before, I didn’t even know that the sarkar had started minting 20 rupee coins.

What used to be called small change is no longer quite so small. As a schoolboy in Calcutta’s La Martiniere, I used to get five annas per day with which to buy a snack during the lunch time break.

The anna was one-sixteenth of a rupee. For three annas I could get an aloo-puri combo, or a pattie, and another two annas got me a pastry from Mr Berry, the school cake man. For my five annas, I could feast like a prince.

A Coke was four annas, or charzees as the four anna coin was called. The eight anna coin was an attzee, and the two anna coin a douzee in La Martinierese.

Annas became part of numismatic history in 1957 when India’s currency was decimalised. But as if to make up for this, more and more new coins, of higher and higher denomination, began to appear on the scene to replace notes of the same value.

In my school days, the highest denomination coin was of one rupee, which also came in the form of a note. Now the one rupee note is as defunct as the dodo, like the two rupee note which is now a coin.

Then came the five rupee coin, which has almost totally replaced the note of that denomination While the 10 rupee note is still around it’s facing increasing competition from coins of the same value. And now we have a 20 rupee coin to stand in for notes.

What next? Fifty rupee coins? Hundred rupee coins? Social media is abuzz with rumours that all this new coinage presages a bottom-up Demonetisation II which will replace lower denomination notes with coins.

We are witnessing a form of demonetisation. A demonetisation which makes old currency not worthless but worth less. It’s called inflation.



This article is intended to bring a smile to your face. Any connection to events and characters in real life is coincidental.


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