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20 Dec 2016

Cash goalpost is changed, again- demonetised notes over Rs 5,000 would be allowed to deposit just once in a bank

Jayanta Roy Chowdhury, TT, New Delhi, Dec. 19: The RBI has said deposits of demonetised notes with a value of over Rs 5,000 would be allowed just once in a bank account between now and December 30.
The announcement not only lengthened the list of abrupt changes enforced since the note recall was announced on November 8 but also fuelled suspicion that the government is trying to dissuade people from depositing demonetised notes.
The value of such deposits is said to have touched Rs 14 lakh crore, a tad shy of the original estimate of Rs 15.44 lakh crore worth of the demonetised Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes.
A high percentage of such deposits would suggest only an insignificant amount of black money was being kept as high-value notes and/or dodgers found some way to beat the system. Another possibility is that a sizeable chunk of counterfeit notes may have entered the banking system, taking advantage of the chaos that followed demonetisation.
However, there seemed to be an attempt to shift the goalposts once again with the RBI apparently suggesting in a reply to a Right to Information (RTI) query that the total number of demonetised notes was actually more than Rs 20 lakh crore -- a surprising 30 per cent increase, compared with what the government had said earlier.
Today, while announcing the Rs 5,000 rule, the RBI said two bank officials would grill customers to determine whether they had valid reasons for "not depositing the notes earlier".
But finance minister Arun Jaitley said tonight: "If they (bank customers) go and deposit with the bank any amount of currency, no questions are going to be asked and, therefore, the 5,000-rupee limit does not apply to them if they go and deposit it once.
"But if they are going to go everyday and deposit some currency, same person, that gives rise to suspicion that where is he acquiring this currency from. In that event a person may have something to worry about. Therefore, everyone is advised whatever old currency you have, please go and deposit it now."
The RBI notice today flies in the face of earlier assertions by Jaitley that people ought not to rush to banks to deposit their cash hoards as they had adequate time till December 30 to do so.
Earlier, the government had made it clear that no questions would be asked if customers made deposits of old notes up to Rs 2.5 lakh. At that time, Jaitley had said: "My appeal is that you have time till December 30. So, there is no need to come in the first few days (to deposit your old notes). Take your time, this will ease pressure (on banks)."
The government had moved a gazette notification on Saturday that effected the rule change, stating that "the deposit of an amount exceeding Rs 5,000 shall be made only once per account until 30th December, 2016." But the finance ministry didn't put up the notification in the public domain until Monday.
The notification added "that the deposit up to the amount of Rs 5,000 shall be made directly into such account and the rest of the amount, if any, shall be subject to such conditions as the Reserve Bank of India may specify."
The banks have been asked to stop customers from trying to sidestep the new rules by making smaller deposits in their accounts. If the cumulative deposits top Rs 5,000, the customers will be subject to the same strictures that apply to those who make a single deposit of more than Rs 5,000.
The RBI said deposits of over Rs 5,000 worth of demonetised notes would be credited only into KYC-compliant accounts. "If the accounts are not KYC-compliant, credits may be restricted up to Rs 50,000 subject to the conditions governing the conduct of such accounts," the RBI notification said.
These restrictions will not, however, apply to those who make income disclosures under the second amnesty scheme with deposits made into the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana.
PTI reported that in response to a question posed by Mumbai-based activist Anil Galgali, the RBI said that on November 8, it had Rs 9.13 lakh crore in Rs 1,000 notes while Rs 11.38 lakh crore in Rs 500 notes -- adding up to Rs 20.51 lakh crore.
If true, this will raise the headroom for the government that has become increasingly uncomfortable with the avalanche of deposits that banks have received since the demonetisation announcement.
Economist Pronab Sen said: "There has already been a significant erosion of people's confidence in our currency, given the regulatory flip-flops and rumours about the quality of new notes which have been printed ... and this rule merely adds to that uncertainty."
Analysts speculated the latest restriction was prompted by the possible failure of its second Income Declaration Scheme which provides for a tax and penalty of up to 50 per cent of declarations.
Finance Ministry officials, however, contended that the move was meant to stall any further money laundering. They believe that many people have been using all kinds of devices to dodge taxes.

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