From New Year, individuals and traders may not be able to get coins and exchange of currency notes from offices of Reserve Bank of India.

It is learnt that the apex bank is all set to shut down its counters or currency chest offices for distribution of coins/currency notes, according to a decision taken in its monetary policy statement in 2012-13. There are a few hundred counters offering this public service in the branches of the RBI across the country.

The move would imply that the general public, including traders, will have access to supply of coins/exchange notes only through the branches of commercial banks. At present 90-95 per cent of exchange of notes and coins is done by the apex bank.

The United Forum of Reserve Bank Officers and Employees is up in arms against the proposal on the grounds that it would cause inconvenience to the public as there has always been a shortage of coins and the move also works against the staff interests.

“This will have a deleterious impact on the staff strength of the banks and their morale as a good-number of employees of all cadres are engaged in this customer-friendly activity…,’’ the union said in a representation submitted to the RBI Governor last week.

The union had also slapped a strike notice in this regard, it is learnt.

The RBI’s Citizen Charter mentions that it would ensure ‘prompt and courteous service’ in exchange of notes and coins in the denominations of the customers’ choice.

The apex bank’s proposal to close its own counters is against this charter and could cause hassles to people, say experts. “Availability of coins and change is a serious problem, especially for petty traders. There is also racketeering by some traders to monopolise access to them,’’ said the chief of a public sector bank on the condition of anonymity.

Branches of commercial banks alone might not be in a position to completely cater to the requirements in view of work pressure and other factors, he said.

Somasekhar.m@thehindu.co.in

Naga.gunturi@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on December 17, 2012)
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