shortage forcing Calcutta shop owners to buy coins from beggars
By Associated Press
India (AP) - A mysterious coin shortage gripping the
eastern Indian city of Calcutta has shopkeepers begging
for change from beggars and buying coins at prices above
their face value.
No one knows exactly why there is no change in Calcutta
or why the dearth has affected only this city of 14
million, but it has spurred the Reserve Bank of India
to emergency measures, distributing millions of coins
to try to satisfy the demand.
Since the coin shortage became acute at the beginning
of June, the bank has distributed nearly 5 million rupees
($121,950) worth of coins, including one million on
Thursday alone, said Nilanjan Saha, the bank's treasurer
in the city. But the emergency supplies have failed
to stem the demand.
Some 2,000 people stood in two lines on a recent day
at the bank to exchange currency notes for coins, many
planning to resell them for a profit.
A woman, selling stacks of 100 rupee
coins for 120 rupees, counts notes at a bus stand in
Calcutta, India Friday, June 15, 2007.
One woman, who asked not to be named, set up shop outside
the bank selling packets of 100 rupee coins for 120 rupees.
Others braved the long lines, saying they could not afford
"I have come at 7 a.m. and after four hours, I am yet
to reach the counter," said Laxmi Narayan, whose brother
runs a roadside shop selling bread and eggs.
"We can't afford to pay the extra 20 rupees for 100
rupees worth of coins, this eats up our profit margin,"
Many have found creative alternatives.
"It may sound strange, but we have found that beggars
are a good source of coins," said Mum Poddar, who runs
a small shop selling stationary.
Frustrated customers said they were being forced to buy more
produce so the amount would be a round number, or were getting
their change in other goods.
"If I am supposed to get back one rupee or 50 paise,
the shop owner gives me one or two toffees, saying he does
not have any coins," said Sandeep Kundu, a local resident.
There are 100 paise in a rupee.
Bank officials said they were mystified by the shortage.
"There is no reason," said Saha. "But I have
heard reports that some unscrupulous traders were melting
coins because the face value of the coins are lower than the
The bank was also investigating claims the coins were being
melted down to make razor blades.
There are "reports that as many as six blades can be
made from one single one rupee coin," said bank security
officer Subal Chandra Naskar.