AN NGO has started a petition on change.org to highlight difficulties visually impaired people face using new currency notes of Rs 200 and Rs 50 denominations. The Blind Graduates Forum of India (BGFI) says visually impaired people are finding it difficult to independently manage their cash transactions due to the marginal size difference between the notes of the two denominations and the absence of sufficient features of tactile perception. The group is demanding that the difference in the lengths and widths of each note in the denominations from Rs 10 to Rs 2,000 should be at least 10 mm.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had held talks with committees comprising visually impaired citizens in 2009 and 2011 before notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations were introduced.
Vishal Kumar, the president of the BGFI, says the committees had given their suggestions to the RBI on different applicability standards that must be included while designing the new notes. But not many were followed.
“The old notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 had a 10 millimetre difference, either in width or length, and this was great for us to identify. The new set of notes has reduced this difference. While the old note of Rs 500 measured 167 mm x 73 mm and Rs 2,000 note measured 177x 73 mm, the dimensions of the new notes of Rs 500 are 150 x 66 mm and Rs 2,000 are 166 x 66 mm,” he said.
Objections to the dimensions of the recently introduced Rs 50 and Rs 200 notes have also been raised. “While the difference between the blue Rs 50 note and the orange Rs 200 note is only 4 mm, it should ideally be at least 10 mm,” he said.
Vishal added that marking lines on the notes, including the bleed lines, are not perceptible enough and fade with frequent use. The lack of standardisation of different coins adds to the confusion. “A co-existence of both old and new currency is making it very confusing for us. Unlike old paisa coins, the present ones, including the newly introduced Rs 10 and Rs 5 coins, do not have much variation in size or weight. This widens inaccessibility,” he added.
Individuals with low vision, who demand contrast colours and large fonts to mark the differences between notes, have also raised similar issues.
Sam Taraporewala, the director of the Xaviers Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged (XRCVC), said the government must clarify whether any group of visually challenged gave its views on the new notes before they were introduced. “We wish to know if sufficient groups of visually challenged people were consulted before bringing the new notes in the market. It is time they acknowledge that the currency is not blind-friendly,” he said.
The group believes that the new notes of Rs 100 and Rs 10, to be introduced next year, will have a difference of less than 2 mm in width. Solicitor Kanchan Panmani, who plans to file a public interest litigation on this subject in the High Court, hopes that the government will work on these errors. “I am waiting for the replies to a few RTI queries that I drafted, after which I will file a PIL in this matter very soon in the High Court,” she added.
Despite multiple attempts, the Reserve Bank of India and the Ministry of Finance could not be reached for comment.