In the town of Sirsa, home to the sprawling headquarters of the Dera Sacha Sauda, shops owned by followers of the sect’s flamboyant head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh run a separate monetary system to tender change to customers.Located in and around Dera premises, these shops have the word ‘Sach’ (truth) prefixed to their respective names and give out plastic ‘coins’ or tokens of Rs 10 and Rs 5 to customers if they are unable to tender change in Indian currency.
These coins, engraved with the words ‘Dhan Dhan Satguru Tera hi Asara, Dera Sacha Sauda Sirsa’, can then be used by the customer to buy items at the ‘Sach’ shops later.
In case a shopkeeper does not have any change at his disposal if a customer pays Rs 100 for an item that costs Rs 70, the latter may have to make do with three plastic tokens of Rs 10 value each.
The Dera campus is spread over nearly 1,000 acres and is a township on its own, with schools, a sports village, a hospital and a cinema hall.
Shopkeepers who run ‘Sach’ shops near the Dera headquarters have a different colour code for such plastic coins.
A few journalists, who went to Sirsa to cover the situation in and around the campus after a CBI court convicted the sect chief in a rape case, were also given such plastic coins in place of Indian currency.
“I have three such coins of Rs 10, but I cannot use them because the entire area near the Dera headquarters has been cordoned off by the Army, said Mukesh Kumar, a resident of Beghu village, located near Dera headquarters.
Locals say it is normal practice for shopkeepers, who are also followers of the sect, to tender these tokens to their customers if they do not have change.