Reserve Bank of India did not rule out possibility of currency notes to be the carriers of bacteria and viruses including Covid-19.
Confederation of All India Tradrs (CAIT) in a letter to the union Finance Minister Nirmala Sithraman on March 9 had asked to clarify whether the currency notes are the carriers of bacteria and viruses which was forwarded to RBI.
The RBI in its reply to the CAIT through a mail on recently has given such indication.
RBI in its reply to CAIT hinted that ‘the currency notes could be carriers of bacteria and viruses including Covid-19 virus and therefore more and more usage of digital payments should be done to avoid handling of currency’, it said
In the reply RBI stated, ‘in order to limit the coronavirus pandemic, the public can make payment by sitting at homes through various online digital channels like mobile banking, internet banking, cards, etc. and avoid using/withdrawing cash to the extent possible. Moreover, the public health guidelines on Covid-19 issued by the authorities from time to time are required to be strictly followed, it further said.
CAIT national president B C Bhartia and general secretary Praveen Khandelwal said that the issue of currency notes carrying bacteria and viruses is very important and the CAIT had raised this issue several times in the past with the ministers and other authorities.
Though the RBI has smartly avoided to answer the basic question, however, the RBI could not deny the fact and their reply fully indicates that the currency notes do carry viruses and bacteria and therefore the maximum usage of digital payments to avoid handling of currency notes is advised by them.
Bhartia and Khandelwal jointly said that annual report of RBI released on August 29 2019 mentioned that the value and volume of banknotes in circulation is increased by 17.0 per cent and 6.2 per cent to ` 21,109 billion and 108,759 million pieces, respectively, during the period of 2018-19.
In value terms, the share of ` 500 and ` 2000 bank notes, which had together accounted for 80.2 per cent of the total value of bank notes in circulation at end-March 2018 increased to 82.2 per cent by the end of March 2019.
The total expenditure incurred on security printing during July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019 stood at ` 48.11 billion against ` 49.12 billion in the previous year.
Bhartia and Khandelwal jointly said that various reports of credible organisations of India and other countries have proved that currency notes are carriers of bacteria and viruses. India is a cash rich country as 130 crore people in India use currency notes as a preferable method for making payments and during the current Corona pandemic, the usage of currency can be and has proven to be fatal.
The currency notes are handled by a series of known-unknown people and therefore it is more likely to have escalated any pandemic to any extent. The traders across country are most vulnerable since handling of cash currency constitutes a major component of their businesses. Being alarmed by this fact, the CAIT has sent several communications in the past one year to union Health Minister and Institute Council of Medical Research (ICMR) but they didnt even bothered to even acknowledge the letters.
Meanwhile, both Bhartia and Khandelwal urged the union Finance Minister Nirmala Sithraman to take cognisance of the reply of the RBI and take immediate steps to minimise the usage of cash in the country.
Similarly, an incentive scheme should be announced for acceptance and adoption of digital payments. The bank charges levied for digital transactions should be waived and the government should give subsidy directly to the banks in lieu of bank charges. In due course, such subsidy will not be a financial burden on the government.
On the other hand it will minimise the expenses incurred on printing of bank notes, CAIT informed.