Common sense would say that the Reserve Bank of India, after being stung by demonetisation debacle, ought to have learnt its lesson and may have taken corrective actions to salvage its lost pride in the face of considerable damage to its institutional reputation. The ground reality tells a contrasting tale. This is quite evident from two response by the federal bank owned currency printing presses.
On 7 January, while replying to an RTI request, as exclusively reported by Janta Ka Reporter, the RBI had said that it began printing the new Rs 500 notes two weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had declared the old currency notes illegal.
The federal bank admitted that the printing of new Rs 500 notes could only start on 23 November at its own Bharatiya Reserve Bank Note Mudran Private Limited printing press in Karnataka.
The reply had said, ” First stage of printing process of new Rs 500 banknote commenced on November 23, 2016 at BRBNMPL.”
However, the response to same set of questions by another printing press owned by the RBI would leave many stunned.
In its reply to Ahmedabad-based activist, Parag Patel, the Nasik-based RBI printing press refused to answer a single question citing potential threat to India’s sovereignty and integrity.
The reply (below) said, ” It is to inform you that the information sought by you cannot be provided under Section 8(1)(a) and Section 7 (9) of RTII Act 2005 which relates to the disclosure of which prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic and economic interest of the state..”
More than 100 people have died due to demonetisation related stress since 8 November. The RBI has come under attack for deliberately avoiding transparency in stating the facts before suffering public. Many analysts felt that this was because of the central government being able to arm-twist the RBI, an otherwise autonomous financial institution of repute.
The RBI had issued more than 70 rules during the 50-day demonetisation period with the federal bank becoming an subject of huge social media ridicule. Many felt that this confusion was an outcome of the Modi government’s alleged arms-twisting tactics and the current’s incumbent’s predecessor, Raghuram Rajan, wouldn’t have allowed the central government to play with the reputation of the institution such as the RBI.
The RBI has also been accused of printing notes with plenty of errors, which experts said would defeat the stated objective of fighting the menace of counterfeit currency in India. The federal bank, for its part, has blamed the haste in which they were forced to print new notes.