Vanishing coins being melted into razor blades
Police in Calcutta think they have solved the mystery behind the Indian city's acute coin shortage, believing the money is being melted down and smuggled to Bangladesh to be turned into razors and ornaments.
'The crisis has been acute for the past three months. On preliminary investigation we have found that at some points on the north and eastern suburb of Calcutta, large amounts of coins are changing hands for smuggling to Bangladesh,' said Manoj Verma, a senior detective with the Calcutta police.
'Either the bags of coins are being directly smuggled to Bangladesh or the metal is being sent across the border after they are melted at some joints around Calcutta.
'We have gathered information that in Bangladesh, metals from these coins are being used to make shaving blades and shining steel ornaments.'
Some police officials said, however, it was difficult to prove the crime unless people are caught in the act of melting the steel coins in denominations of 50 paise (half a rupee), 1 rupee or 2 rupees.
'It is very hard to arrest anyone just because he is collecting coins, as there is no law against that,' said one police officer.
The inspector-general of the Border Security Force, Somesh Goyal, said his officers believed coins were being smuggled across the border, but 'we don't know where exactly and why these coins are going to Bangladesh'.
'We have the information that mini-plants have also cropped up across the border in areas such as Chittagong, Nawabganj, Rangpur, Dinajpore and Khulna, where Indian coins are melted before being used as raw materials for a variety of objects,' said a police source, quoted in The Statesman daily.
Alarmed by the coin shortage, the Reserve Bank of India has been distributing millions of coins in eastern India. In the first two weeks of this month, the bank in Calcutta released about 15 million rupees (HK$2.8 million) in coins.
A blind beggar at a Calcutta train station said the shortage had been partially offset by an increase in the value of the coins.
'Until a few months ago, by exchanging 98 one-rupee coins I used to get a 100 rupee note. But now, with 93 one-rupee coins I can get the same amount from any hawker on the train,' said beggar Kisto Mandal.
Calcutta's money could be being turned into merchandise
The number of razor blades that can be made from a one-rupee coin 4