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Time for small change

Our Ministry of Finance is reportedly looking for a symbol for the ‘rupee’,on the lines of ‘£’ for ‘pound sterling’ and ¥ for the Japanese yen and $ for the dollar....

Written by Pravin Kumar |
May 15, 2009 12:26:33 am

Our Ministry of Finance is reportedly looking for a symbol for the ‘rupee’,on the lines of ‘£’ for ‘pound sterling’ and ¥ for the Japanese yen and $ for the dollar. About time,too. For,the current abbreviation ‘Rs’ is shared with the Pakistan,Nepal,Sri Lanka and Seychelles currencies. While we are about it,we might as well move away from the Reserve Bank of India’s apparent obsession with circular-shaped coins. The ancient Greeks considered the circle as the perfect shape,but there is no reason for our Mint to be stuck with this shape. For,practically all the new coins coming out of the Mint — the one-rupees,the two-rupees,the five-rupees and the fifty paises — are monotonously circular. The new one-rupee and the two-rupee are distinguished only by one outstretched thumb and two outstretched fingers,respectively. They have to be turned over to find out the denominations. The old five-rupee coin had at least the merit of being portly: you could accept it with closed eyes—it could have been designed for the visually handicapped. However,the latest 5-rupee coin (2007) is practically the same size and thickness as the latest 50-paise coin (2008). Why this resort to sign language? Some decades back,there were rectangular coins as well as hexagonal coins in circulation. Even recently (1999) there was a 2-rupee coin which had not made up its mind whether to be scalloped or smooth-edged. The current preoccupation of our coin designers seems to be with the circular shape and the Asoka pillar.

Some coins used to feature the elephant. Why can’t some coins feature the declining Indian tiger or the Indian one-horned rhinoceros—or the Qutub Minar? There are 28 metals and 31 alloys used worldwide in coin designing,but our Mint seems to be stuck with the cupro-nickel alloy. Mints in other countries seem to take coin designing more seriously. The Duke of Edinburgh has served from 1952 to 1999 as president of the Royal Mint Advisory committee. Japan and the USA hold competitions to select coin designs. Currently,the Royal Mint (UK) is holding a coin exhibition on the new definitive reverse-side designs for the UK coins. The new British coins will replace designs that have been used for almost forty years. The £2 commemorative coin for 2009 celebrates the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth. Our coins lack the topical note — the link with current events. The 2005 five-rupee is still celebrating ‘75 years of Dandi March’ — as if it were an on-going event. Why not a coin celebrating the successful Chandrayaan Moon Mission — or the 60th year of the Republic?

The writer is based in Mumbai

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