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The 50 paisa coin's fall from grace

Bus conductors refuse to take it. Vegetable vendors and even beggars turn it down. If you have a 50 paisa coin on you, then chances are it will remain in your wallet for a very long time.
By Azera Rahman | IANS, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 24, 2007 12:12 PM IST

Bus conductors refuse to take it. Vegetable vendors and even beggars turn it down. If you have a 50 paisa coin on you, then chances are it will remain in your wallet for a very long time.

"The other day I gave a bus conductor two 50 paisa coins but he simply refused!" said Nitisha Sharma, a student.

Agreeing with her, another student Aman Khan said: "In auto-rickshaws, if the fare comes to something and a half, say Rs 45.50, then it automatically means you have to shell out Rs 46, although you might have a 50 paisa coin."

While the coin is very much in use in smaller Indian towns and cities, in New Delhi, where affluence is only too visible, most people don't want to touch it with a barge pole.

And this when the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) says it still very much has legal status.

Asked if the 50 paisa coin was going out of circulation, Alpana Killawala, general manager, RBI's public information department, said: "Of course not!

"The 50 paisa coin is very much legal tender and people can use it freely. What's more, five paise, 10 paise and 25 paise are also legal tender and can be used," said Killawala .

But for Delhi residents, the dilemma persists.

Until last week, two-wheeler drivers on the Delhi Noida Direct (DND) flyover were a harried lot as often they would end up with these coins at the toll tax booth.

"The toll tax for two wheelers used to be Rs 9 and if you gave a Rs 10 note, the official would give back two 50 paisa coins instead of a one-rupee coin.

Thank god they have rounded off the figure to Rs 10 from last week," says motorist Prakash Mehra.

Even though the toll tax has gone up at the DND flyover, three - and four - wheeler drivers are heaving a sigh of relief. Earlier they were being charged Rs 18, so if they gave a Rs 20 note, chances were they would get back four 50 paisa coins as balance.

"I remember, my cab driver was so irritated with the toll tax officials for giving 50 paisa coins that he collected 36 such coins and gave it back to them. And sure enough, the officials were hesitant about accepting it!" said Pallav Gohain, a BPO employee.

With the prices of commodities skyrocketing, it's no surprise that the 50 paise is dying a slow death.

"What's the point of getting a 50 paisa coin when no one except probably those selling a glass of water will accept it?" asked Gohain.

Anmol Mishra, a Delhi resident, said: "My biggest embarrassment was when I offered two 50 paise coins to a beggar. He flatly said that if I didn't have a one-rupee coin then I didn't need to give any alms at all and returned the coins to me!"

RBI official Killawala said only when the RBI starts receiving feedback that a certain currency is not being used in the market is it called back and not re-issued. Hence, it automatically goes out of circulation.

"However, we don't demonetise such small denominators. That is because demonetising is done to curb forgery and forging a 50 paisa coin will cost you much more. Also, if you are talking about the 50 paise, a chanawala will still accept it, so it still has a value," Killawala said.

The last time the RBI demonetised a currency was in the early 1960s. "It was a big denominator, a Rs.10,000 note," she said.

So going by the RBI official's explanation, you can still use the 5, 10, 25 and, of course, 50 paisa coins. The question is, are there any takers?

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