It was globalised India’s answer to a new, international-look coin in the changing money market.
But plans to circulate the bi-metal sikka have come a cropper. The proposal for the new-look coins was approved by the finance ministry last year: it was time to give Indian coins a make-over on more international lines.
A pilot project was put into motion. The National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad drafted new designs — coins with a golden-yellow centre ringed by a silver circumference. Blanks were ordered. Then came the spoiler. Sky-rocketing prices in the international metals market meant that the metal worth of the coins could be more than their face value. Moreover, sources said, the Reserve Bank of India informed the finance ministry that it has sufficient coin reserves in denominations of 50 paise, Rs 1 and Rs 2 — enough to last two years. Sources say the demand for coins is on the wane and the trend is likely to continue for at least a couple of more years. The project was shelved.
But it left behind an unnecessary “bulk” in its wake — 25 million blanks have already been ordered through a tender process for stamping at the government’s own mints at Noida. Moreover, there is also a realisation that the government will have to invest at least Rs 70 crore to upgrade the technology necessary for minting the new coins.
“With all these indicators, it was a question of determining whether we need to make that investment, or put it on hold,” a government official told Hindustan Times.
But the ministry has not scrapped the project completely. A committee to assess the metal market prices vis-a-vis coin production costs to determine future course of action has been set up. “If the coins’ metal value exceeds Rs 5, and market prices keep moving up, a scenario could arise where currency could be melted,” another officials said.
The new coins with their themes — Unity in Diversity, Bharatnatyam Mudras and Information Technology — are bigger and thicker than ones in circulation.