Coins are not just durable, as collectors of old artefacts can testify, they also come in handy for toss-ups in moments of indecision. In contrast, paper notes display a high propensity to end up in tatters, especially those of low value, and struggle to retain their exchangeability once they’ve been passed around once too often. So, what explains India’s launch of a new one-rupee note? The finance ministry, which prints this particular note, while the Reserve Bank of India issues all others, must surely have a good answer. But let’s guess.
Could it be aesthetics? Coins tend to constrain the talents of designers. The new rupee note offers about 120 sq cm of surface to advertise the majesty of the country. Its pinkish green colour has an undeniable appeal, and the assurance of “Satyamev Jayate"—truth shall prevail—is visible on the rupee coin’s image printed on it. It also has features to fox counterfeiters, though it’s unclear why anyone would want to fake a note whose purchasing power doesn’t extend beyond a pop of candy.
Could it be symbolism? Ah, maybe we’re onto something here. So long as a state currency exists, a single unit of it should exist too, and in every possible form, be it metal, paper or binary digits. In this view, it doesn’t matter if a rupee note achieves wide circulation or not. It just needs to hold validity. But what if there’s more to it? What if this is actually a nudge? If decisive leadership makes for success, should we not take the hint and quit tossing coins?