Smugglers use Bengal corridor to destabilise Indian
economy, fund jehadis?
Asim Kumar Mitra
Quoting a recent report of Reserve Bank of India the Kolkata edition of Hindustan Times on June 25, 2012 under the headline “Bengal contributes 70 per cent of fake notes in the country” said, “West Bengal, which shares porous borders with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, has the dubious distinction of contributing the maximum number of counterfeit Indian currency notes to country’s economy than any other state.
So says data on 2011-12 compiled by Reserve Bank of India (RBI), which puts the share as high as 70 per cent. The conclusion was reached after compiling statistics of arrests made in connection with the seizure of counterfeit notes. According to India Today news magazine, year wise seizure of fake notes since 2001 is as follows: 2001—5.3 cr., 2002—6.6 cr., 2003—5.7 cr., 2004—7.0 cr., 2005—6.9 cr., 2006—8.0 cr., 2007—10.0 crore. Total Rs 49.5 crore.
A pertinent question in this connection is how it all started? When we are very much disturbed to notice that fake Indian currency notes have emerged as a complicated problem for the whole of our nation, we are astonished discover that it all started because of a wrong decision of Reserve Bank of India. The RBI had in 1997-98 outsourced printing of 2,000 million pieces of Rs 500 notes to US and Germany amounting to 1 lakh crore. The committee, after questioning Central Bank officials, said the reasons provided were far from convincing.
The Times of India had published the following news on May 1, 2010:
New Delhi: A Parliamentary committee has expressed shock at the government’s decision to outsource printing of currency notes to US, UK, and Germany to the tune of Rs 1 lakh crore putting the “entire economic sovereignty (of the country) at stake” during that particular period.
The Committee on Public Undertakings in its sixth report on security printing and minting, submitted before Parliament expressed concern as the decision to outsource had “the danger of destabilising the economy by agencies or authorities who could have misused our security parameters vis-à-vis printing of currency notes”.
Coming to the latest report of the RBI, it said, out of the total number of counterfeit notes which sneaked in from foreign nations through West Bengal, about 90 per cent were through the three border districts of Malda, Murshidabad and Nadia. This makes it obvious that the maximum number of fake notes is sneaked to from Bangladesh.
Bengal also accounted for 11 per cent of the counterfeit notes by value held all over the country. On this count, Bengal stands fourth among the league of states. The states which were ahead of West Bengal on this count were Maharashtra, at over 14 per cent, Delhi at about 13 per cent, and Uttar Pradesh around 12 per cent.
Another statistics compiled by the RBI with the help of state police departments and central agencies reveal that about 75 per cent of Indians arrested in connection with importing counterfeit notes were people from West Bengal most of them from Malda, Murshidabad and Nadia. An apex bank official closely linked with the statistics compilation said the data revealed that West Bengal might be the main entry point for counterfeit notes, while such states as Maharashtra and New Delhi are the principal usage points for such fake notes.
“According to police reports of these two states, demand for these notes is high among auto-rickshaw drivers, roadside hotels and dhabas and illegal liquor and gambling dens. Since both these states have the highest number of migratory workers who are easy targets, the usage percentage is extremely high in Maharashtra and New Delhi,” the apex bank official said.
Now let us peep into the world of Security Printing. The paper called security paper is not the kind that is sold over the counter, or something that one can order any, odd paper mill in the world. The entire currency and security grade printing business is dominated by less than a dozen European companies. These companies will dare not support ‘counterfeiting’ operation unless there is official cover or support given to them, by their respective governments.
Curiously enough, it is noticed that the Indian security paper manufacturer has been neglected. “Some quantity of paper used for currency is manufactured at the unit in CNP and the Hoshangabad Paper Mills, the rest is met through imports from four firms: 1) Arjo Wiggin of France, 2) Portal of U. K. 3) Gane of Sweden, and 4) Paper Fabric, Luisantel. The Bank Note Press in Dewas makes the offset ink, while the ink for intaglio printing is procured from SICPA, a Swiss firm with one of its units in Sikkim. There is a strong view among the security agencies that procurement from foreign agencies could compromise security. An intelligence report indicated sometime back that Pakistan had managed to purchase 3 ink from SICPA and similarly there is evidence to prove that Portal is supplying paper to both India and Pakistan.
Looking deeper, in May 2009, some 5 kg of Optically Variable Ink (OVI ) intaglio ink went missing during transportation from SICPA’s Sikkim unit to Bharatiya Reserve Bank Note Mudran in Mysore. In August 2009, SICPA landed in Customs trouble for evasion of Customs duty. There seems to be more than meets the eye.
In the last 20 years, India has lowered its guard and has become fixated on the Pakistan bogey. The Pakistan Fixation is a cover up of India’s laziness or lack of resolve. Pakistan has neither the focus nor the persistence to do this fake currency racket over so many years. The Pakistan Fixation hides Indian ineptness at confronting this problem. All this begs a second look at India’s knee-jerk blame Pakistan syndrome. It is really a serious point to be pondered at. Because many a times politicians prefer to take advantage of anti-Pakistani sentiment of the people. Of course, the involvement of Pakistan in circulating fake Indian currency notes throughout the country should not be ignored.
What has become a bigger concern for the RBI is that, of late, the counterfeiters have begun to focus on such lower denomination notes as Rs 100 and Rs 50. “Generally the awareness campaign against counterfeits is focused on higher denomination notes of Rs. 1000 and Rs 500. Now, we have to incorporate features of lower denomination notes in our awareness programmes.” The apex bank official added.