Has any one wondered what happened to those cute, little, purple-coloured ₹2,000 notes? Are you trying to recollect? The same one that almost all of us wanted to get hold of, in exchange of the old 500 and 1,000 notes, owing to demonetisation! Well, scratch your heads no more. BusinessLine did some legwork and here’s what we found.

“There is disconnect between the numbers of ₹2,000 notes in circulation as per data from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and their churn out in day-to-day transactions. This could be because of the possible hoarding of cash and a decline in the total number of notes in circulation for the last three years,’‘ says a senior official from a top public sector bank, on condition of anonymity. 

As per information shared by the government in the Lok Sabha, no fresh indent for printing of ₹2,000 notes was given to the RBI during the last two financial years (FY20 and FY21). RBI’s data, too, show a steady fall in the volumes as well value of these notes. While the volumes came down from 32,910 pieces in 2019 to 24,510 pieces for lakh at the end of March 2021, the value, too, decreased correspondingly from ₹6,58,199 crore to ₹4,90,195 crore.

In value terms, the share of ₹500 and ₹2,000 bank notes together accounted for 85.7 per cent of the total value of bank notes in circulation as on March 31, 2021, compared to 83.4 per cent as on March 31, 2020.

A senior SBI official says there has been a poor “arrival” of ₹2,000 notes at bank counters. “Bank notes are expected to be in circulation and not many customers are bringing ₹2000 notes for transaction. With non-availability of new notes in currency chests in adequate numbers, ₹500 notes have almost substituted them now,’’ he said.

Some bankers also say there is a general shortage of higher denomination notes in election years “for obvious reasons”.

Curiously, customers are paying for the shortage of ₹2,000 notes. “As ATMs can dispense only 40 notes at one go, we can only withdraw ₹20,000. If there are ₹2,000 notes too in an ATM tray, it will be better for a customer in the wake of higher ATM use charges these days. So, banks are actually gaining due to this,’’ says PK Krishna, an HDFC Bank customer.

According to RR Murthy, a section officer at the Telangana Secretariat, shortage of higher denomination currency also poses a problem while carrying cash. For instance, if one has to take ₹20,000, at the bare minimum, it would comprise 40 notes of ₹500, rather than 10 notes of ₹2,000. “It’s been over a year since I got a ₹2,000 note from an ATM,” says Murthy.