While the traders have the option of offering some products in exchange of coins, worst-hit are the RTC conductors and commuters

Availability of small change has become a big issue for everybody in the city, with gradually increasing magnitude. While traders and merchant community has always had a problem with coin change, now the scarcity is affecting even consumers.

It has become more or less a usual practice for traders to offer sachets of mint or betel nut powder in return for change of up to Re. 1. However, now, biscuit packets costing Rs.5 to Rs.7 have become the exchange products, for lack of coin change.

“I was offered a chocolate bar once, and later, a biscuit packet in lieu of small change, in a super market. Nowadays, it has become a routine for traders to offer such commodities against change less than Rs.10,” said K. Parashuram Reddy, a customer.

Worst-hit by the scarcity of small change are commuters and conductors on the State-run APSRTC buses. While the conductors get coins worth Rs.50 from the corporation everyday before they board on their first trip, the amount is soon exhausted as commuters do not carry change either.

“We are expected to get change from the commuters-- something which does not happen mostly. Lack of coin change affects not only commuters and us, but the corporation also. We are sometimes getting single currency note of Rs.50 from the corporation, instead of coins. Recently, I was forced to buy coins myself, losing some commission in the bargain,” informed an RTC city bus conductor, on the condition of anonymity.

Benefits agents

The only people benefiting from this shortage are commission agents and small-time traders in coin change. The commission has gone up to 15 per cent from the five per cent that would be charged earlier, inform traders.

“Earlier, we would buy coins from small-time agents who would get them for us after standing in queue at the Reserve Bank of India’s regional office. Now they are charging Rs.15 for coins amounting to Rs.100. Even clerical-level bank employees are making big business out of it,” charges K. Ramarao, owner of a tiffin-centre in Kothapet.

Commission agents get large amounts of coins through their connections with bank officers, and sell them for a premium, he alleges. “I had to forego a deal for coin change of Rs.1.5 lakh recently, as they demanded large commission. Instead, I travelled to Vijayawada where I knew a bank manager, and got myself coins worth Rs.50,000 without any commission,” Mr. Ramarao revealed.