Last month, the Reserve Bank of India announced that it will withdraw currency notes printed before 2005 from circulation from March 31, 2014. What does such a move bring about?

The crisp notes in your father’s wallet, the wad of cash your siblings have stashed in their favourite hideout so that you don’t get your hands on it and the coins jingling in your small purse… where do you think it all comes from? Surely, it comes from somewhere. Yes, it certainly does — from the Reserve Bank of India.

The Reserve Bank of India or RBI is the central banking institution and controls all banking operations in India. It manages the issue and circulation of currency in the country. Only RBI has the right to issue bank notes of all denominations except one rupee notes and coins.

If you have been reading or watching the news or even following Young World quiz, you would know that money printed before 2005 would be withdrawn from circulation soon. What would that accomplish, you ask? A common speculation among people and the media is that this move would curb the generation of black money. However, it is understood that the notes issued prior to 2005 don’t have as many security features as the ones printed after. These security features help you identify fake currency easily.

So what is money? In the simplest terms, it is a unit of exchange in the form of coins and bank notes that have value. Money is something we use to purchase something we want. It is issued and guaranteed by the government and the central bank (the RBI in our country). But what happens when unscrupulous people, for their own greed, produce money that is not real or issued by the government or RBI? Does it still hold the same value?

Counterfeit money or fake currency is illegitimate currency and its actual value is much lower. Printing or even possessing fake currency notes is a punishable offence. So not only does it decrease the real value of money, but it also creates a situation where people are reluctant to accept currency of higher denominations.

Even though, counterfeit money is being printed in large quantities, there are ways you can identify fake notes. The Reserve Bank of India makes sure that there is adequate supply of genuine notes. It changes the design of the notes from time to time to ensure this.

Easy peasy

So how do you figure out if your money is real or not? It’s easy. There are certain features designed and tested by the RBI that help you identify the real from the fake. Let’s look at some of the security features.

Security thread: A currency note issued by the RBI will have a security thread running vertically. It will have ‘bharat’ and ‘RBI’ inscribed on it and changes colour when viewed from a different angle.

Micro lettering: Get a note and take a close look at the area behind Gandhiji’s ear. You will see ‘RBI’ and the denomination inscribed there.

Watermark: On the right side of a note, you will see the portrait of Gandhiji. When you hold the note against the light, his hidden portrait and the denomination can be seen.

Intaglio printing: The portrait of Gandhiji, the Reserve Bank seal on top and the value of denomination written in Hindi are printed in intaglio or raised ink which can be felt by touch. This feature is found in notes of denominations 20 and above.

Year of printing: The notes printed after 2005 indicate the year of printing at the bottom of the side that doesn’t show Gandhiji’s face.

Go on and take a look at your allowance money or ask your parents to check if the currency notes are real or not. Check out all the security features in the ‘Know your banknotes’ section of the website

The website, launched by RBI, has a promotional film and posters that raise awareness on fake currency and how to identify it.