The inventory of all currency notes with RBI as on 8 November stood at Rs23.9 trillion, RTI data provided by the central bank showed
Mumbai:A recent query under the Right to Information (RTI) Act has shown that the Reserve Bank of India had a stock of 2.47 billion Rs2,000 notes, an equivalent of Rs4.95 trillion, when demonetisation was announced on 8 November. That was just one-fourth of the Rs20.5 trillion worth stock of old Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes at that point in time.
The RTI response also revealed that there was no stock of the new Rs500 notes when the government decided to scrap the old high-denomination notes. The RTI query was filed by independent journalist and RTI activist Anil Galgali. Mint has reviewed a copy of the response.
The RTI data provided by the central bank also showed that the inventory of all currency notes with RBI as on 8 November stood at Rs23.9 trillion. This is higher than the amount mentioned in the data available on currency in circulation, which was Rs17 trillion as of 28 October.
Economic affairs secretary Shaktikanta Das clarified that the difference between the two is because not all currency printed ends up in circulation.
“There is something called currency in circulation and there is something called notes printed but not circulated. The answer to the query through the RTI probably refers to total notes printed. Not every note that was printed was circulated. Some notes were printed but they were either in the RBI vaults or in the printing presses. So that is not part of currency in circulation," Das said.
That said, the data also shows why it is still difficult to obtain change as no new Rs500 notes were ready when the old ones were invalidated.
Separately, even the data provided by RBI and government officials at various points in time can be called into question. For instance, on 6 December, the minister of state for finance, Arjun Ram Meghwal, in a written reply to a Rajya Sabha question said that a total of 1.76 billion pieces of the new denominations amounting to Rs3.29 trillion had been supplied as of 29 November. This includes 1.6 billion pieces of Rs2,000 notes and 156 million pieces of Rs500 notes.
A day later, during the monetary policy press conference, RBI deputy governor R. Gandhi had said that a total of Rs4 trillion of new currency notes had been disbursed as of 6 December. This included Rs2.94 trillion worth of the new Rs500 and Rs2,000 notes. This figure is lower than the Rs3.29 trillion number provided by Meghwal.
On 12 December, Gandhi said that 1.7 billion pieces of the new denomination notes had been supplied. While the data was the same as Meghwal’s, Gandhi’s data pertained to 10 December, about 11 days later than the minister’s figures. This discrepancy in data provided by RBI and government could be due to the lack of clarity in the number of Rs500 notes printed and disbursed so far, said an official at one of the printing presses.
“Whether the information provider is the government or RBI, information accuracy is actually difficult in a situation such as this. The infrastructure available right now is not equipped to give an accurate picture of the currency in circulation immediately," said Soumyajit Niyogi, associate director, India Ratings & Research Pvt. Ltd.
Separately, Shaktikanta Das also added that around Rs13 trillion worth old notes have come back into the system post demonetisation.
Asit Ranjan Mishra in New Delhi contributed to this story.
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