The Rs75 banknote controversy

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KARACHI: In an effort to make Pakistan and its central bank’s 75-year celebrations more memorable in 2022 and 2023, respectively, the bank issued two currency notes carrying equal value of Rs75 each in different designs and colours – both valid and acceptable for public use.

Misconceptions related to their status as “commemorative notes” but still legally acceptable for settling payments made them immediately controversial and a large number of shopkeepers refused to accept the banknotes, questioning whether they are legal tender and do banks accept them?

At the same time, the rumours about their “discontinuation” came partly true as they were printed only once like other commemorative coins and notes and unlike the regular banknotes of Rs10, Rs20, Rs50, Rs100, Rs500, Rs1,000 and Rs5,000, which are printed without interruption.

Unlike the limited production of other commemorate coins and banknotes, the Rs75 currency notes were printed in a comparatively large quantity, estimated at over 100 million pieces of each of the two designs.

They were also circulated on a mass scale to make sure they reach the common man and make the 75-year anniversaries more memorable.

State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) spokesperson Abid Qamar said “the central bank has no intention to discontinue the Rs75 banknotes. These notes will remain in circulation till they remain.”

The first Rs75 currency note was printed in green colour on Pakistan’s 75th Independence Day on August 14, 2022. It carries images of the father of the nation, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and national heroes including Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Allama Iqbal and Fatima Jinnah.

The multiple images on the banknote surprised many as all other notes carry the image of only the Quaid-e-Azam. It created a feeling among people that the Rs75 note was only a commemorative note and was not for public use.

The second Rs75 banknote, which is in blue colour and has the image of only the Quaid-e-Azam, was later released to mark the SBP’s 75th anniversary on July 4, 2023.

A senior banker elaborated that the commemorative currency notes were issued in big quantities to make sure they reached the common man and made the anniversaries more memorable unlike other commemorative coins and notes that were produced in relatively moderate quantities.

“There is no need for Rs75 notes to be made regular currency notes in the presence of Rs50 and Rs100 banknotes,” he stressed.

Currency note printing definitely has some cost. The production of a large quantity of Rs75 notes must have consumed significant public financing. More importantly, the misconceptions and lack of awareness did not let the authorities achieve the goal of bringing them into circulation.

The central bank spokesperson categorically rejected the notion, saying they were spreading awareness and information to the merchants and common people. “They will achieve the targets soon.”

Qamar added “I think there is a misconception that they are commemorative notes and that’s why they cannot be accepted. Perhaps for this reason, shopkeepers are reluctant to accept it.

“Let me clarify that all the commemorative coins and notes produced from time to time are legal tender. They all can be used to make payments.”

He emphasised that the commemorative notes were printed to make events memorable, but the Rs75 notes were produced in a comparatively larger quantity to make the events more memorable and share the pleasant memories with the common man.

However, the shopkeepers say they do not accept the Rs75 notes as no one takes them in the supply chain.

A pushcart vendor said the limited circulation was the main bone of contention, adding they would start accepting the notes when they continued to remain in circulation and people regularly presented them for goods and services.

A shopkeeper was of the view that the banknote value of Rs75 was the real problem and people would accept it if it was of the value of Rs70.

Some shopkeepers said they had started accepting the notes after banks and petrol filling stations assured them that they would also accept them.

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