note demonetisation

No, the RBI hasn't announced a Rs 2,000 note with a 'nano GPS chip' that it can track

RBI's official release about the notes doesn't mention a tracking chip.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have surprised India after he announced on Tuesday that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes would no longer be legal tender, but one part of the new system didn’t come completely out of the blue. For a few days now, pictures of new Rs 2,000 notes have been floating around the internet and Modi announced that these will be issued for limited circulation soon. But those pictures also came with some rather fantastical rumours about these notes.

According to these rumours which were circulating on WhatsApp even before the demonetisation announcement, the new notes would come with what is variously described as a “micro nano GPS chip”, which is supposed to be able to help track individual notes by way of satellite.

The technology even has its own serious-sounding abbreviation, NGC, and the rumours – some of which made their way to the mainstream media, like this Zee News post – “the chip has been fitted in such a way that it can detect Rs 2000 notes even from 120 meters below the ground.”

That would be astounding, if it were true. Except it isn’t. On Wednesday, the RBI dismissed the rumours entirely saying that such technology does not exist anywhere in the world.

According to the rumours, the technology would have meant that piles of cash would be detectable from space, making life much easier for police forces (and anti-corruption crusaders). And it’s not impossible, even if it may sound so. American engineers have developed ways to embed radio frequency identification chips on paper in ways that could aid tracking.

Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa said that the new notes that will be introduced will be “high security”, suggesting, as is routine, that new currency paper comes with added security features that make them harder to counterfeit. But he did not mention any tracking features.

When the Reserve Bank of India officially announced all the details about the new Rs 2,000 notes, however, there was no mention of any NGC.

There are a few interesting elements to the new note. Besides the colour, it will include a picture of Mangalyaan, the Indian spacecraft that made it all the way to Mars. Details about the currency does not include any mention of new security or tracking features, which presumably the RBI would want to advertise if they had implemented such technology.

Rumours might always insist that the government may not be telling us about the new technology – all the better to detect illicit cash piles once the notes are in circulation – but it seems unlikely that such information would be kept hidden, or that people would not discover the chips soon after they are out in the economy.

And even though the technology appears to be possible, barring fantastical notions of satellites being able to track piles of cash deep into the ground, it also might not yet be affordable enough to actually put on currency, even high-denomination notes.

Update: The post has been updated to include a fresh quote from the finance secretary saying the new notes will be “high security.”

Update 2: On Wednesday afternoon, RBI spokesperson Alpana Killawala told News18, “such a technology does not exist at the moment in the world, then how can we introduce such a feature?”

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.