Hyderabad: "Yeh note nahin chalega saab! Aur ek dedo!" A shopkeeper stiffly told M. Mahindar Reddy, a State Government employee, returning a 500-rupee note.
That, by the way, is something most people might have experienced, probably because the notes were soiled or mutilated.
But now there is the problem of fake notes. And it is assuming more serious proportions.
From small street-side sweetshops to mega malls in Hyderabad, many outlets are now keeping an RBI advisory on fake note series at cash counters for quick verification of 500- and 1,000-rupee notes.
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The RBI advisory on Suspected fake notes series alerts on series starting from 2AQ and 8AC for Rs 1,000 note and series starting from 6AB, 6BL, 6CW, 6AV, 7CA, 8BS, 8PQ, 8DC, 8BD, 8DP, 8BF, 9BK, 9AN, 9AR, 9 PN and 9CN for Rs 500 note.
This, in a way, highlights the fear about fake notes among the general public, which is also causing considerable inconvenience to many.
"We are turning down at least 50 notes a day on the suspicion that they could be fake," a cash counter manager at a Heritage Fresh outlet here told Business Line.
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Laments R. Ramakrishna, an IT professional with Mahindra Satyam, "These notes are sometimes not being accepted even at some petrol pumps. When we draw from ATMs, we mainly get Rs 500/Rs 1000 notes. What shall we do if some of them are not accepted?"
While this is the ground reality, banks have their own versions to offer.
V.K. Nagar, Executive Director, Syndicate Bank, says, "I am also informed like you, about the incidence of fake notes in circulation. However, there has been some increase in some centres. Earlier, we used to find three to four notes in a packet (of 100) which has now gone up to 10/15. But this is not a universal phenomena."
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The fake-note detectors are programmed; if the same ink/paper is used in fake notes, they cannot detect, he added. Enquiries at branch levels of various banks also point to an increase in fake notes.
A cashier in a local public sector bank said, "On an average, I am rejecting at least 10 fake notes a day. Recently, I had to pay Rs 3,000 from my pocket as I did not notice fake notes while at the counter."
"While proliferation of fake notes is a problem, it is blown out of proportion by the media, creating panic in general public which is resulting in doubts about high denomination notes," said an official of a large private bank.
Matter of caution
When contacted, an RBI spokersperson said the notes series mentioned in its advisory was meant only for extra caution. "It does not mean that all the notes in the series are fake," she clarified.
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According to RBI data, three to six fakes are found in one million notes.