It's week four for the demonetization drive and for the Reserve Bank of India it's a war against time. With a massive task to replace over 15 lakh crore worth of old currency notes in 500 and 1000 denomination, the central bank is working round the clock to deliver the new notes.
Interestingly even as the nation is pitching in for India first policy to crackdown on the blackmoney with this bold move, the new notes being printed are not 100 percent made in India.
India Today accessed insider details of RBI printing press, currently there are 4 currency printing press running full steam with three shifts and no lunch breaks for the staff.
Two currency printing press operated directly under RBI are part of Security Printing and Mining Corporation of India (SPMCI) in Dewas (MP) & Nashik (Maharashtra). In Nashik 90 lakh notes are being printed each day on 2 lines, where priority is being given to smaller denomination notes of 500 rupee.
In Madhya Pradesh, Dewas printing mill has 3 lines and around 90 lakh notes of 500 rupee denominations are being printed each day.
The other two are operated by RBI's subsidiary Bharatyia Reserve Bank Note Mudran Private limited (BRBNPL) in Mysuru (Karnataka) and Salboni (West Bengal) both shelling out 4 cr pieces of 2000 rupee notes.
Here is the catch, around 16 million tonnes of paper is being rolled out by a mill in Hoshangabad but due to unprecedented demand, now paper is being sourced from United Kingdom as well. Sources in the RBI have told India Today that around 16 million tonne of paper is being imported from the UK. That's not all, RBI is even sourcing the specialized security thread used in new notes from centres across Italy, Ukraine and UK.
"The new note that you will have is not completely Indian made. Due to high demand we are sourcing paper roll in 50:50 ratio from UK and Hoshangabad. Even security thread is outsourced to Ukraine, UK and Italy," said a senior official in RBI.
Interestingly, the intaglio ink used to print the notes is supplied from Madhya Pradesh, Sikkim and Rajasthan but its also produced abroad and then sources from local centres.
"Each batch of notes takes 8 days to print and we can't waste time sourcing our materials", said a senior official in RBI on condition of anonymity.
Recently Adi Godrej, Chairman of Godrej Group told India Today mooting the idea of printing currency abroad to meet the shortfall after 86% of Indian currency was declared illegal by the government. "They (Government and RBI) should act and get Indian notes printed outside, there are several bodies that can do that", said Adi Godrej.
According to sources, in the recent past RBI did opt to print entire Indian currency abroad in 1997 when Bimal Jalan took over from Rangarajan as the RBI Governor. There was a shortfall of notes which required signature of the new Governor.
New notes were sourced from UK, Canada, America and Germany at an estimated cost of over $90 million. But soon after security concerns were raised over counterfeiting and giving information access to foreign printing center. So for now RBI is banking on its own strength to print the entire new currency, but will it meet the December 30th deadline set by the Government to restore order?
"Even if all the printing lines work in an ideal scenario with no misprinting or damaged notes in 3 shifts, it will take atleast 5 months for cash supply to normalize. Till then, we will continue to see the shortage", said Vipin Malik former Director, Central Board, Reserve Bank of India.