Mumbaikars on the problem of 'change'

An acute shortage of change has resulted in anxiety and altercations. People speak out about the only thing constant in their lives, the (lack of) change

The problem of change is growing more acute everyday. People are anxious that they do not have change while commuting, buying something and sometimes have to forgo Rs 1 to 2 daily. There are also fights over change. One has heard about road rage, now we hear about change rage. The matter has become one of perennial concern in the city.

The Rs 5 coins have seen their thickness reduce
The Rs 5 coins have seen their thickness reduce

Plastic money is best
Samrat Amre, marketing executive who works in Parel says, “I have a feeling that there is some change racket going on. If you go to a shop or while commuting, you end up facing a change problem. I have started going to the mall and using my credit card to avoid this problem of shortage of Rs 1 and 2.”

Debit card is the way for Jayadev Kamdar, fashion designer. He says, “I sometimes wish that taxi and rickshaw drivers also accepted cards. The payment is much easier especially when we don’t have to worry about giving and taking change. This coin business is too stressful and annoying.”

Many Mumbaikars are forced to forgo change of R 1 and 2 due to the coin shortage. Pics/Nimesh Dave
Many Mumbaikars are forced to forgo change of R 1 and 2 due to the coin shortage. Pics/Nimesh Dave

For Niyati Wasabi, management professional, internet banking is the best. “I find internet banking very convenient and easy. So I use it to avoid the trouble of counting money. The change problem is very acute though, certain places don’t have internet banking facility and so you have to give cash or change.”

Coin trouble
Managing to get change to pay the rickshaw fare was a tough task for teacher, Malcolm Correa. He says, “I was travelling from Borivali station to my house at IC Colony. When I reached, the fare came to R 32. I had a R 100 note and the rickshaw driver asked me for Rs 2 change which I did not have. I had three Rs 10 notes, but the rickshaw driver insisted on Rs 2 change, too.”

The Borivali resident adds, “I purchased a biscuit packet to get change, but the shopkeeper also had no change, so he made me buy two biscuit packets. The rickshaw driver asked me to give him one biscuit packet as I could not give him change. Generally, rickshaw drivers forgo that amount, but this driver was very insistent. If the fare had come to Rs 38, I would have given him Rs 40 and forgone Rs 2, but that’s rickshaw driver logic.”

That day has made Correa always carry change to avoid a reoccurrence. “Getting coins is another trouble filled experience. In BEST buses, if you don’t give change, the conductor makes you get down. Shopkeepers, bus conductors, taxi and rickshaw drivers have no change, and even the common person has no change. I wonder where all the change is going? We are always giving it away, but nothing is coming back.”

Ruby Fernandes, Jogeshwari resident says, “I have seen many people facing this problem of change shortage in BEST buses when the conductor asks for change. I have also faced it. There are times when I have had to leave the house in a hurry and fail to carry change along; arguing with the conductor spoils your entire day. The recent BEST fare hike now means I have to carry R 7 change to avoid an altercation.”

Restaurant owner Rohit Bhagat is always having change problems. He says, “Beggars get a lot of change when they beg, so they come and give us change in exchange for notes of the amount. But now with the shortage they have started charging Rs 100 more for every R 500 worth of change they give.

In our restaurant, we have to give change, we cannot say no. The change issue is very acute, when it comes to tips also; the waiters say that they are getting notes rather than coins. People do not want to part with their change easily.”

Stocking change
Priyanka Rajiv, advertising professional collects coins and is the source of change for her colleagues. She says, “I love collecting coins. As a child, I had a piggy bank in which I would always save my loose change.

As an adult too, I have maintained this habit. Once in office a friend was desperate for coins, so I told her about my coin collection and gave her Rs 100 worth of coins. Now, I am my co-workers mint, they all ask me for coins.” For coin collector, Sunny Savla, petty change has always interested him.

He has a collection of numerous ancient coins as well as many foreign coins. “With the change problem, I have started giving coins to friends and family who are stressed about forgoing Rs 1 or 2 everyday. Rickshaw drivers ask for Rs 6 and 7 change also now, which is very difficult to give. Fortunately, my hobby is proving useful to my family and friends.”

Coins currently in circulation

>> The Rs 1, Rs 2, Rs 5 and Rs 10 coins are in circulation.

>> Also, the 50 paise coin is still in circulation as per the RBI rules.

Rupee whoopee!
On the decision of the RBI to re-introduce the Rs 1 note in our currency

One rupee — that was the prized possession that I received from my parents as pocket money on each day of the Bandra Fair. It was not inadequate; it was not extravagant, it was just enough.

The 25 paise coins have no value, today

There are 100 paise in each rupee and I used all of it very diligently: 25 paise (also known as four annas) was the price of an amusement ride. I would either sit on the merry-go-round with horses that went up and down, round and round, or I would try the sea-on-land in the compound of Carmel View, opposite Mt Carmel’s Church. This was some sort of a boat ride with the boats going further and a bit higher with every turn.

Sometimes, I would go to witness the well-of-death with motorbike riders and car drivers doing stunts inside a wooden well. Standing on the edge of the rim I would feel scared, perhaps more so than the acrobatic performers. There was also the Giant Wheel but I would not venture on that since I would feel giddy as the car of the wheel reached the top and then descended giving rise to butterflies in the tummy.

Another 25 paise was used for a snack like a batata vada with yet another 25 paise for a soft-drink or an ice-cream stick with flavours of mango and chocolate, my favourite being the plain white vanilla one that I would bite on slowly or else the chill would affect my teeth.

Which left 25 paise of the one rupee, that would be used for a game of skill, not so much as nine pins where you had to hurl a ball and knock off cans, but rather the hoopla or what was called the ringing game. I would stand behind a bamboo barricade and throw those wooden rings to land on a low table with slabs of soap, packets of biscuits, cigarettes and even a pocket transistor.

Try as I may, I would never be able to ring the transistor, but very often I would be lucky to get a cigarette packet (it was a soft pack non-filter Panama) that I would give to an uncle.

Those were the days of the September Garden with king and queen, fancy dress contests, the jam session with jive music and songs on request with messages like ‘To the baby-faced girl in red, meet me at the graveyard.’ And sometimes I would skip one day at the Bandra Fair and carry forward the one rupee to the next. Well, two rupees was a definite double whammy!

RBI speaks
>> The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) spokesperson Alpana Killawala says, “There is no overall shortage of coins. But yes, in certain pockets there is a mismatch in demand and supply of coins. We are aware of the same and are making provisions to address the issue at the earliest.”

>> Talking about the coin shapes and sizes, Killawala says,”The design of the coins is decided by the Government of India. We do give our inputs, for improvement and change in coin shapes and sizes, but the decision when it comes to the design of coins is solely made by the government.”

Problems of the visually challenged

>> Media professional Nidhi Goyal says, “The R 1 and 2 coins are similar in shape and so it is very difficult for me to make out which is which. I end up asking the rickshaw driver or shopkeeper to pick the correct amount. I have no choice but to trust them. Even when I get change, I have to trust that the correct amount has been given to me. The coins becoming slimmer have increased problems for the visually challenged.”

>> Agreeing with her Rahul Shirsat says, “The coins earlier had unique texture and feel to them which made it easy for me to make out the denomination. Now with all coins being round and smooth, the R 5, 2 and 1 coins are almost the same to me. I depend a lot on my family to help me segregate my coins. However much I try to keep the coins according to denomination, they end up getting mixed up at the end of the day.” - Marcellus Baptista

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