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Transparency please

Transparency please

It's been almost a month since Prime Minister Narendra Modi's currency exchange experiment expired, but the country's Central banks remain opaque in its disclosure of critical information surrounding the move. In response to a Right to Information query on Tuesday, the Reserve Bank of India admitted that it has no confirmed data of the number or value of fake currencies detected since the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. In his address to the nation on November 8, 2016, the Prime Minister claimed that demonetisation would help wean out counterfeit currency notes and choke terror funding. More than 11 weeks after the announcement was made, the RBI has failed to produce any data on this crucial aspect. It raises the possibility that "the government has failed in this endeavour or raised the bogey of fake currencies merely to implement demonetisation", says the RTI applicant. What's worse, there is a lack of information from the RBI or the government's side about how much old demonetised currency has come back into the banking system post-November 8. Even though banks had stopped accepting demonetised notes after December 30, and handed over all these along with their figures and tally to the RBI, the Central bank has steadfastly refused to provide any essential details. Instead, the Central bank has hidden behind the claim that it is still counting and tallying those notes. In fact, at a Parliamentary committee hearing, last week, former Prime Minister and senior Congress leader Manmohan Singh is understood to have saved RBI Governor Urjit Patel from answering pointed questions about issues related to non-removal of cash withdrawal restrictions. The claim here is that Singh was trying to protect the RBI's credibility from further damage. It seems like a specious justification, considering how far the institution's credibility has fallen. The best thing for the Central bank to do now is to release all important figures related to the demonetisation exercise as soon as possible.

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