India’s new Rs 2,000 note is a riddle, wrapped in a GPS-chipped mystery, lodged inside a pink enigma. To some it is worth everything in the world, to others, nothing at all. Now, as we learn that we may soon have to bid farewell to this novel piece of paper that has been the source of much happiness and heartache, here’s a short history of the new Rs 2,000 note.
Much before Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced demonetisation on November 8, there were rumours that such a move was in the offing. The State Bank of India even blamed those for the rise in cash earlier in the year. But they got strongest when the first reports of a brand new note turned up.
As far back as October 21, Hindu Businessline had already published a story saying that a Rs 2,000 note would be introduced soon. Soon, pictures leaked and social media jumped on the bandwagon.
Naturally this made its way to reddit, where the possibility of banning Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes – as would eventually happen – was discussed. That was also where the first design criticism of the new notes also showed up:
Then on November 8, Modi made an unscheduled television address to the nation, announcing the withdrawal of older notes and their replacement with new notes, including a brand new Rs 2,000 one. Suddenly all the rumour-mongers were vindicated.
But a few were baffled. Modi had ostensibly announced the currency exchange scheme as a way of attacking black money, and lots of economists have called for the demonetisation of high-value notes as a means of attacking those with illicit cash. Yet Modi also immediately announced the printing of an even-higher note, the Rs 2,000 one. How would this be any safer or less prone to black-money usage than the Rs 1,000 or Rs 500 before it?
Zee News’s Sudhir Chaudhury, who had looked very closely at all the WhatsApp messages across his various groups, seemed to have an answer.
In the video, Chaudhury said that the new note would come with special “nano GPS chips” or “NGC” technology, that would allow the currency to be traced wherever it is – including deep under the earth. According to Zee, and innumerable forwards from supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the NGC technology would mean that any piles of the new notes could easily be identified by satellite, even if they have been buried.
Of course, this wasn’t true. The Reserve Bank of India immediately tried to dispel the rumours that the notes came with chips, and even pointed out that such technology doesn’t even exist. But that didn’t stop many, many people from trusting the news, including Swadeshi Jagran Manch’s S Gurmurthy.
He in fact was tweeting out this hilarious send-up of the features that many believed the new note had – and also later tried to clarify why he thought it was interesting.
But the saga of the Rs 2,000 note doesn’t end there. It took some time for the new notes to actually hit the market, since ATMs had to be recalibrated to actually process their size, and when they did, there was a plethora of design critiques.
“As much as I want to find some redeeming qualities in the design of the new Rs. 2,000 currency note – I can’t.”
With those design discussions came the revelation, according to some that the ink was actually bleeding off the new pink notes. Testing out this theory became something of a mini-cottage industry online, as various experiements were carried out in an attempt to see if the pink would come off.
For a while the Bharatiya Janata Party supporters did all they could to insist that those videos of the notes bleeding colour were fake and politically motivated. Until, that is, the government pointed out that the new notes are supposed to lose colour if you wash them. In fact, an official even said that if the colour didn’t run, they were most likely fake.
Which, of course, inspired the even more outlandish theory – which is still circulating – that the ink used in the Rs 2,000 note is radioactive. This suggested the new notes include the “radioactive isotope of Phosphorous (P32), which has 15 protons and 17 neutrons,” and, as with the GPS rumour, that this would help tracing stashes of the notes.
Aside from the complete implausibility of this rumour, it’s also worth pointing out that radioactive isotopes are always harmful – if the government put them on notes, it would be a much bigger problem than black money.
Missing in all this was the official admission that the new notes have no new security features, because the mints simply did not have time to design them in time. All of this also comes alongside the fact that the Rs 2,000 note also temporarily lacked a fundamental feature of cash – being usable. As the currency exchange led to a massive cash crunch, people who managed to wait in line and withdraw Rs 2,000 notes found that they were unable to actually use them anywhere, simply because no one wanted to take them.
That didn’t stop UNESCO from declaring it the best currency of the world. And by UNESCO, we mean jokers on reddit and social media.
All of which culminates in the revelation from S Gurumurthy – the same one who thought the spoof GPS video was “interesting” – that the new note is likely to be phased out within 5 years. If this is true, it means we will have limited time as a nation to discover the true hidden depths of this wonderful feature-filled currency.
Rs 2000 note, we hardly knew ye.