If you give a 50 paise or 25 paise coin to a shopkeeper in Meghalaya, his standard response may be 'yeh nehi chalta hai' and if you give them matchboxes or toffees instead, they are readily accepted.
Small change have almost become collectors' items not only in Shillong in Meghalaya, but also in some other states though they are very much legal tender and as such valid for all transactions.
The peculiar situation, which reminds one of the days of barter trade before paper money and metal coins came into vogue, has come to such a pass that the State Bank of India has been forced to step in issuing an appeal to the people to use small denomination coins freely.
"There is a strange and strong aversion of the people to use small denomination coins. Maybe, they find it difficult to handle the coins," an SBI official said in jest.
Matchboxes and toffees have replaced the smaller coins with neither the salesman nor the customer opposing it as it has become an accepted practice.
However, not all are happy with this and smell a conspiracy involving matchbox and toffee producers who obviously stand to benefit.
"This appears more to be a well-thought-out plan as eliminating smaller coins from circulation has pushed up sale of the products," Jeremy Majaw, a government employee said.
"Coins of all denominations are freely accepted and issued at all branches of the Bank," the SBI notification said recently, urging persons desirous of utilizing this service (of smaller coins) to approach the branches.
But since the appeal has been unable to cut much ice with the people, the SBI is mulling returning the stock of 50 paise coins in its possession to the mint.
"The stocks of coins are unnecessarily occupying the space at the banks. We will have to return it to the mint," an SBI spokesman said.
He observed that the authorities, which should enforce the transaction of small change, have been found to be amiss in the discharge of their duties.