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Why using cash can be risky these days

February 09, 2017 11:20 IST

Syed Firdaus Ashraf reveals dual encounters when he regretted dealing in cash.

In the last three months I have fallen in love with cashless transactions.

The payment procedure is so easy, it takes just three simple steps.

  • Swipe your credit card.
  • Enter the password.
  • Check SMS.

And you are done.

I have forgotten what cash means to me.

Last month, I withdrew Rs 20,000 from my bank account, which I got in Rs 2,000 notes.

Being in a hurry, I didn't check each and every note before stepping out of the bank.

A week later, I went to the post office and handed over one of the Rs 2,000 notes which I had withdrawn.

The gent at the counter said he would not accept the currency note.

Why, I asked.

He showed me the note which had something written on it.

The Reserve Bank of India's rules forbids currency notes with handwriting on it, he said.

"But where is the RBI notice? I haven't see any such notice or read about it," I said in dismay.

Another clerk at the counter told me the notice had appeared in the newspapers, and asked me sternly: "Don't you read the newspapers?"

I told him I read newspapers every day, it is part of my job, but I had not seen any such notice.

The postal clerks were unmoved and I left the post office with the Rs 2,000 note.

Next, I went to a chemist's store.

"Will you accept this note?" I asked the chemist.

"Don't you know this note is useless?" he asked before giving me the same gyan.

Everyone, it seemed, knew about this RBI rule, but me.

I went to the bank nearby and asked at the counter: "Madam, will you accept this note?"

The teller scrutinised the note before giving me the same answer.

"So what do I do now? Will I never be able to exchange this note?" I asked her.

"Go to the RBI and your problem will be solved," she said.

"Where did you get the note from?" she asked

"From my bank," I replied.

She asked me to go to my bank and request them to change the note.

Maybe they will, she added.

The next day I went to my bank and told the staffer that I had received the currency note from the bank, that no one was willing to touch it, forget accepting it, so she would have to exchange it.

The staffer admitted that even she did know about the RBI rule banning such notes.

Ah! So I was not the only one ignorant of this rule, even a bank staffer didn't know about it.

She told me I should take it in writing from those who refused to accept such notes.

"I can't argue with them, but you tell me whether you will accept this note or not," I told her impatiently.

Taking the note from me, she said, "I will take down your phone number. If there is any problem, I will call you."

"Done," I said in relief.

I then exchanged the scribbled currency note with another Rs 2,000 note, after ensuring that the new note was clean and had nothing written on it.

This week I ordered something from an e-commerce company. When the delivery boy gave me the parcel, I paid him the amount in Rs 100 notes.

He refused to take one note which he said was illegal.

'Again?' I asked myself. 'But there is nothing written on it!'

The reason this time was different.

The Rs 100 which I had given him, the delivery boy said, was an old currency note, which is not in circulation anymore.

"How?" I asked.

"Sir, the whole world knows about it," the boy said. "Which world are you living in?"

"But how do you know that this note is illegal?" I asked.

He took out a Rs 100 note from his wallet and said every currency note in circulation has the year mentioned on it, in fine print.

"If the year is not mentioned on the currency note, it means it is illegal," he enlightened me.

He refused to accept the note and I had to give him another Rs 100 note with the year mentioned on it.

 

I thought long and hard about where I had got this Rs 100 note from.

Try as I could, I couldn't remember how this note came into my possession.

I tried following the same route I had used earlier.

I went to the chemist who was aware of this rule and did not accept the note.

I strutted over to my bank and asked the executive, waving the Rs 100 note in the air, "Is this note illegal?"

This time, even she knew about this rule.

"What do I do now? I don't know how this landed in my hands."

She once again came to my rescue and asked me to deposit the Rs 100 note in my account.

"We will accept this, but if there is some inquiry, then we will call you," she said.

"Is it a criminal offence to hold such currency?" I asked.

"No," she said.

I have not received a call from my bank so far.

So, apart from all being well, there are also lessons learnt.

From that day on, I have been checking every currency note while withdrawing money from the bank or ATM or accepting cash from anyone.

More and more, I use digital payments as using cash can be risky these days in more ways than one.

Syed Firdaus Ashraf / Rediff.com