Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel. Photo: Reuters
Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel. Photo: Reuters

It has been more than nine months since the Indian government demonetized high value currencies to fight the shadow economy, but the country’s central bank chief says it has still not counted the banned currencies that got deposited in various banks across the country.

While appearing before a parliamentary committee on finance on Wednesday, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Urjit Patel reportedly said that lack of adequate counting machines and related infrastructure have delayed the counting process, reports Business Standard. He said the RBI has cut down holidays to speed up the process.

The parliamentary committee, which will table the report on demonetization in the monsoon session starting July 17, gave the RBI chief 15 days time to submit data on deposits of invalidated currency notes of Rs 500 (US$ 7.76) and Rs 1,000 (US$ 15.52) denomination, besides counterfeit currency in circulation.

Patel also cited the government’s recent decision to allow cooperative banks to return old currency and the likelihood of Nepal giving back demonetized currency, as part of an agreement, as additional reasons that are delaying the counting, reports Economic Times.

He told the panel that the money currently in circulation is Rs 15.4 trillion (US$ 240 billion), against Rs 17.7 trillion (US$ 277 billion) at the time of demonetization on November 8 last year. The demonetized currency notes made up about Rs 15.50 trillion (US$ 240 billion), or over 85% of the total.

Patel was accompanied by three deputy RBI governors, B.P. Kanungo, S.S. Mundra and N.S. Vishwanathan. Kanungo reportedly told the committee that the RBI has floated a tender to buy more counting machines — in addition to the 59 it already has and the seven it had hired — to speed up counting.

The Parliamentary Committee members expressed displeasure over RBI’s delay in providing exact amount of currency returned. They pointed out that Patel had promised in January to provide the exact figure at his next appearance.