The RBI in the reply to CAIT hinted that ” The currency notes could be carriers of bacteria & viruses including covid virus and therefore more and more usage of digital payments should be done to avoid handling of currency” – The CAIT which is highly vocal and active on this issue since more than a year wrote a letter to the Union Finance Minister Smt. Nirmala Sithraman on 9th March,2020 asking them to clarify ,whether the currency notes are the carriers of bacteria & viruses or not which was forwarded to RBI. The RBI in its reply to the CAIT through a mail on 3rd October,2020 has given such indication.
In the reply of RBI stated that ” In order to limit the coronavirus pandemic, the public can make payment by sitting at homes through various online digital channels like mobile banking, internet banking, cards, etc. and avoid using/withdrawing cash to the extent possible. Moreover, the public health guidelines on COVID-19 issued by the authorities from time to time are required to be strictly followed.”
CAIT National President Mr. B.C.Bhartia & Secretary General Mr. Praveen Khandelwal today said that the issue of currency notes carrying bacteria & viruses is very important and the CAIT had raised this issue several times in the past to the Ministers of the Government and other Authorities and this is the first time, the RBI has given a reply but has very smartly avoided to answer the basic question. However, the RBI could not deny the fact and their reply fully indicates that the currency notes do carry viruses and bacteria and therefore the maximum usage of digital payments to avoid handling of currency notes is advised by them.
Mr. Bhartia & Mr. Khandelwal jointly said that Annual Report of RBI released on 29th August,2019 mentioned that “The value and volume of banknotes in circulation is increased by 17.0 per cent and 6.2 per cent to Rs.21,109 billion and 108,759 million pieces, respectively, duringthe period of 2018-19. In value terms, the share of Rs.500 and Rs. 2000 banknotes, which had together accounted for 80.2% of the total value of banknotes in circulation at end-March 2018,iincreased to 82.2 % by the end ofMarch 2019 .The total expenditure incurred on security printing during July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019 stood at Rs. 48.11 billion against Rs. 49.12 billion in the previous year “
Mr. Bhartia & Mr. Khandelwal jointly said that since various reports of credible organisations of India and other Countries have proved that currency notes are carriers of bacteria & viruses, is an alarming truth . India is a cash rich Country and 130 crore people in India use currency notes as a preferable method for making payments and during the current Corona pandemic, the usage of currency can be and has proven to be fatal. The currency notes are handled by a series of known-unknown people and therefore it is more likely to have escalated any pandemic to any extent. The traders across Country are most vulnerable since handling of cash currency constitutes a major component of their businesses. Being alarmed by this fact, the CAIT has sent several communications in the past one year to Union Health Minister & Institute Council of Medical Research (ICMR) but they didnt even bothered to even acknowledge the letters.
Both Mr. Bhartia & Mr. Khandelwal urged the Union Finance Minister Smt. Nirmala Sithraman to take cognisance of the reply of the RBI and immediate steps must be taken to minimise the usage of cash in the Country and an Incentive scheme should be announced for acceptance and adoption of digital payments. The Bank charges levied for digital transactions should be waived and the Government should give subsidy directly to the Banks in lieu of bank charges. In due course such subsidy will not be a financial burden on the Government on the other hand it will minimise the expenses incurred on printing of bank notes.