By Arup Chanda
KOLKATA, India, Sept. 29 (Xinhua)-- Indian private banks have reported the proliferation of fake currency notes and a steep jump of 23 percent in the number of counterfeit notes that they have discovered in 2011-12 has put the government on extra alert.
In a report submitted to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the private banks in India said that they had detected counterfeit Indian rupees worth 462,865 (8,416 U.S. dollars) in 2011-12 as against 376,460 rupees (6,845 U.S. dollars) found in 2010-11.
The counterfeit notes detected by these banks during 2009-10 were worth 334,948 rupees (6,090 U.S. dollars).
The 23 percent increase in the counterfeit notes detected by private banks during the previous financial year is alarmingly higher than the 12 percent increase in 2010-11.
This trend has prompted both the RBI and the Finance Ministry to take the necessary steps to combat the situation.
Residents of Indian cities like Jaipur, Shimla, Bhubaneshwar, Mysore and Cochin will have a rare privilege soon of having plastic notes introduced by the RBI.
The government, in consultation with RBI, has decided to introduce 10 rupee notes in polymer/plastic on a field trial basis at these five places.
The selection of locations has been done based on geographical and climatic conditions, according to the finance ministry.
The decision has been taken to extend the life-span of bank notes, particularly those in lower denominations.
The RBI, Home Ministry, security and intelligence agencies of the states concerned, along with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), are working in tandem to thwart the illegal activities of the syndicates reportedly behind the proliferation of fake Indian currency notes (FICN).
A special FICN coordination group has also been formed by the Home Ministry to share intelligence information among the different security agencies of the central government and the states to stop the circulation of the fake notes and arrest those behind it.
The government has also constituted a terror funding and fake currency cell in National Investigation Agency (NIA) to focus on the link between fake currency notes and terror funding.
India and the United States are cooperating in combating counterfeit currency within the framework of the India-U.S. homeland security dialogue launched in May 2011.
The U.S. has invited a team of Indian officials to visit the country's facilities that can detect counterfeit currency and has offered technical assistance to help India develop its database on counterfeit currency.
The Bangalore city police in India's southern state of Karnataka had busted four rackets involved in the circulation of counterfeit notes in the last six months.
South India has been pinpointed as one of the transit points for such notes. In the last six months, there have been four such cases and the police have received several complaints from a couple of banks about fake currencies being found.
However, India's southern state of Kerala remains the main hub of smuggling of fake currency notes. Most dealers in that state are the kingpins who have links in the Middle East.
Police say technology has greatly helped perpetrators of the crime, with manufacturers using sophisticated machinery to print close-to-original notes.
Their authenticity can be detected only through a UV lamp. Some of the most commonly copied features include the Mahatma Gandhi watermark, silver lining and security thread. Features like the color of the serial numbers and texture of the paper used for micro lettering like the denomination of the note isn't easy to copy.
Police say safety measures should start from the banks. Banks have to lodge a complaint even if they get one fake note but people must be careful too, they added.
India's Union home secretary RK Singh held a meeting with U.S. under secretary of state Maria Otero during the latter's visit to India on June 26 where they discussed issues on counterfeit currency and terror financing.
To stop the "Islamic terror-sponsored"industry, which is pumping in fake currency in India ostensibly to fund terror strikes, India wants the U.S. to support its efforts in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to declare counterfeiting of currency as a source of funds for terrorism.
The FATF, however, still considers it an act separate from terror financing and reportedly wants India to show more seizures and more proof to link counterfeiting with terrorism.
Currency notes in India and the U.S. are susceptible to be faked by rogue elements living in unstable countries, particularly those known to export terrorism.