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Thursday, Nov 28, 2002

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`Small' coins have only one side

N.S. Vageesh

CHENNAI, Nov. 27

VERY soon, coins such as 5 paise, 10 paise, and 20 paise may acquire the halo of a collector's item - not by choice but by default.

If you have them with you, you may have no option but to keep it. For, these coins seem to lack the critical element of a currency - mass acceptance and ready exchangeability.

Get on a bus and proffer these coins to the conductor, and you get a stern glance and a polite but firm request to come up with alternative coins.

A sneak look at his bag reveals only coins of higher denominations - Re 1, Rs 2, Rs 5 and a few 50 paise coins.

Go to a temple and the charges for leaving your footwear outside had better be paid in 25 paise or 50 paise coins. Any smaller denominations are clearly unacceptable.

Go to the vegetable vendor and for old time's sake, he accepts it. But with a caveat - Don't repeat the offence! Take an autorickshaw and if the fare reads Rs 26.70, you are expected to forget not only the 30 paise but also the balance Rs 3 for the Rs 30 that you may hand out.

Go to a big department store and if by chance, your bill should come in some fractions, you'll be handed toffees to settle the balance!

At petrol bunks, don't even bother waiting for the small change.

At other locations, the response is only a slight variation of the same theme.

When asked about this phenomenon, RBI officials say that the coins of small denomination (5P,10P and 20P) continue to be legal tender and there should be no qualms on anybody's part in accepting them.

Earlier RBI had discontinued the 1, 2 and 3 paise coins in the seventies on cost benefit considerations and introduced stainless steel coinage in 10p, 25p, 50p and Re 1 denominations in the late eighties.

If public usage and acceptability is any criterion, coins of smaller denominations may well have to be consigned to museums and galleries or form part of private collections!

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