India’s history with demonetisation: From 1946 to 2016

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The whole country was taken aback when Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8 announced that the currencies in the denominations of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 will be invalid post midnight. However, the lower denomination –Rs 10, Rs 20, Rs 50, Rs 100 and coins –will be valid. He further announced that new notes of Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 would introduce shortly. Thus, giving millions of Indians a panic attack. But what do you think was this the first time an Indian currency was banned of a sudden? Well, the answer is NO. A look into the past will make you realise that India is no new to demonetisation.  Demonetisation has been implemented twice -1946 and 1978 – in the past. Similarities in 1978 and 2016 ban:
  • The note ban by Morarji Desai also aimed to drive away black money out of circulation in the economy. Hence, The High Denomination Bank Notes (Demonestisation) Act was implemented.
  • Narendra Modi announced the currency ban is an address that was broadcasted across all news channels. Similarly, Desai announced the ban over the radio after which the banks were closed the following day.
  • Both the affairs were kept confidential.
 Differences in the ban:
  • Unlike Modi, Desai didn’t have the backing of the RBI Governor. The Governor I.G. Patel believed that the ban was implemented simply to immobilize the funds of the opposition party. Patel also believed that people never store black money in the form of currency for too long.
  • It didn’t have much effect on the people and affected only the privilege few. While the recent ban had shaken the whole country.
Coming back to 2016, there is also a buzz that smaller denomination currency notes like Rs 50 and Rs 100 will also be replaced by incorporating new features and design. And that reminds us of an incident dating back to early 70s, when there were rumours of withdrawing Rs 100 note from circulation, and immediately hoards of people were seen rushing to banks to exchange their Rs 10 and Rs 20 currencies.  

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