Despite Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s assurance last Monday that the Reserve Bank of India had enough cash to last beyond December 30, the deadline set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to complete the demonetisation process, warning bells have been rung within the government to meet the deadline. According to well-placed sources, as one enters the last week before the deadline elapses, the focus is to replenish the banks and ATMs with sufficient cash.
With the Income Tax department pegging its recoveries of new currency notes in the countrywide raids at less than Rs 100 crore, the government has pushed levers to increase printing of new currency of 2000 and 500 denominations at its security printing presses. The new Rs 500 currency notes are being printed at Dewas Security Press in Madhya Pradesh whereas new Rs 2,000 and Rs 100 notes are being printed at Salboni in West Bengal.
“The responsibility to meet the challenge, it’s now clear lies at the door steps of the printing presses,” said a Finance Ministry source. This conclusion was reached at a high-level meeting the Prime Minister convened earlier this month which was attended by National Security Advisor Ajit Dobhal, Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha, Principal Secretary to PM Nripendra Mishra and Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi. A detailed presentation on the fallout of the demonetisation move was made by Intelligence Bureau director Dineshwar Sharma.
In addition to this, the headquarters of probe agencies like the Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax department have issued orders to all their field formations to deposit the new currency, being seized by their officials in operations, in bank accounts rather than keeping it in strong rooms. “This way the new currency can come into circulation and help banks dispense it to the public,” the Finance Ministry official said.
The Finance Ministry officials have already requisitioned help from Ministry of Defence to supplement manpower at its currency printing presses. At least 400 soldiers including officers have been deployed at two security printing presses of Dewas and Salboni to help print new currency. They have been mobilised from the Central and Eastern Command to “expedite administrative work” at these vital units.
The transport fleet of the Indian Air Force (IAF) consisting heavy transport aircraft –C-17 Globemasters and C-130J Hercules –have been deployed to ferry currency from the printing presses across the country. Sources said that about 100 troops from the IAF were on the stand-by to meet the contingency.