Just as in the U.S. Specie Panic of 1862, merchants in West Bengal are responding to a coin shortage by offering candies and other merchandize in lieu of change. Thanks to Coin Update for the link to the article.
School teacher Nandita was surprised when a teenager manning the cash counter at a coffee shop in a private hospital offered her two bubble gums with a wide smile.
"Didi (sister), we have no one-rupee or two-rupee coins. So, would you mind the gums instead of Rs.2?" he asked Nandita, who had bought two cups of cold coffee.
Her experience was not something unique or an isolated incident.
People across West Bengal, particularly in Kolkata, face an acute shortage of coins of smaller denominations, making even the simplest tasks of buying groceries or commuting a complicated transaction.
Tapas Mukherjee of the Barabazar Traders Association said the "huge shortage" of coins was badly affecting the business of about 3.5 million small traders in the state.
"One rupee coins have suddenly vanished from the market. Have you seen any of those? Vegetable sellers are mainly facing the music," Mukherjee asked IANS.
He said hoarding of small denomination coins might be one reason for the crisis.
According to Sarkar, even now bus and mini bus operators have to tap the grey market to buy small denomination coins due to inadequate supply.
Adjacent to the RBI Kolkata office premises sit scores of men who buy coins and sell them on a premium although selling of coins is illegal. The coins can only be exchanged.
Sarkar said Re.1 coins were being sold at a premium.
He said it was the defective distribution policy of the RBI that led to coin shortage. "The RBI should enroll individual bus owners with a specific bank branch to issue coins."
The shortage of small coins is also being felt elsewhere in the country where low-priced candies have emerged as a medium of barter among buyers and traders.
To read the complete article, see:
Coin shortage makes everyday life difficult in West Bengal
Wayne Homren, Editor
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