At bill collection centres of various government agencies in the city, officials insist that consumers write their contact details or connection numbers on currency notes. This is in contrast to the Reserve Bank of India’s campaign against writing on the white space on the notes.
For the past few days, residents who visited the bill collection centre of Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (Tangedco) at Mogappair were asked to write their service connection numbers on Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes.
While this is evidently a measure to detect forged notes, several residents are worried that the details they provide may be misused. K. Kamaraj, a resident of Mogappair, said: “I was surprised when a notice at the electricity bill collection centre stated that I must write my nine-digit connection number on the notes. I argued with staff, citing security reasons and finally, paid in notes of Rs. 100 denomination. Some people got delayed as they did not write their numbers on the notes,” he said.
Residents of Avadi and Pattabiram said this practice had been in place for almost a year. T. Sadagopan, a resident of Thandurai, said many people are worried that the revelation of their details would enable unscrupulous elements to misuse the information and implicate them in various crimes.
Customers of government agencies such as Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited and branches of various nationalised banks also reported such demands by officials.
However, agencies said that they had to be careful since banks often charged them for depositing fake currency. Sources in Tangedco said that staff members have been asked to stop the practice during bill payment. However, they noted that the sensors in counterfeit money detectors issued to them differed in various models and confusion ensued regarding forged and genuine notes.
In the last fiscal, the RBI detected 35,000 pieces of counterfeit notes in the State. Officials of RBI, Chennai region, said that they discourage scribbling on the currency notes as it reduces the life of the note and obstructs detection of forgery. It is against the RBI’s clean note policy. Notes with political and religious messages will lose exchange value.
“We have received complaints about various government departments indulging in such practices. We write to the head of the departments such as BSNL and India Post advising them to stop the practice,” said an official. The RBI recently trained staff of BSNL and police on detection of fake currency notes. For complaints and training programmes, RBI can be reached at 044-25362041 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.