Take a look at the images of the two coins on the left. These were reportedly issued during the rule of the criminal East India Company. Surprising! Considering the British had only two motives; loot India and spread Christianity. If you have these coins, treasure them. You are unlikely to see Hindu figures Vishnu, Lakshmi or the young Krishna on coins ever again. Oh, don’t forget to look at the third image of a currency note. It has an image of a famous Hindu temple from Thanjavur (TN). You may never see such images on currency notes again either. Our secular govts have and are still working very hard to bury Hindu culture.
Since those days Mahatma Gandhi has silently smiled on all our currency notes. Not a bad idea. Post-independence MKG did want the Congress to be dismantled, so fair to say he was above petty politics. He was on our coins first and then is on our currency notes. Only the Queen of England compares with such a place on all the currency notes and coins of UK.
|Currency note with Thanjavur Temple|
Then came times when we were proud of our agriculture and our farmers. Ears of corn or maize and the progressive farmer with his tractor adorned our coins and currency notes. While PM Shastri did say “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan” I am not sure I have seen any symbol of our army or our soldiers on our coins or notes. I guess our soldiers have only one purpose mostly: Die! If they manage to survive a battle or war then most times life can get even more painful fighting for compensation and even normal pension. Never mind all that!
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has suddenly announced that ‘people from all walks of life’ want to see new figures on our currency notes. Umm… let’s see, they want figures like B.R. Ambedkar, Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Shivaji on our notes. Who are all these people from all walks? That’s a recent report in the EconomicTimes of June 17,2012. Alright, the demand for Ambedkar’s picture on currency notes is not new. It came from a relatively unknown NGO in 2010 as DNA reports.
The DNA report quotes: “Ambedkar was not only the leader of the downtrodden but was also the architect of modern India. And what better way to honour his contribution than to give him an esteemed place on the Indian currency,” said Saira Patel, general secretary of Mumbaikar Asanghatith Gharelu Kamgar Union, a NGO working with Dalits and Muslims in Andheri. Okay, Ambedkar has already been credited as “architect of the constitution” and slowly this has morphed into “architect of modern India” and in some poll by CNN-IBN he tops the votes as the ‘Greatest Indian’. Now, I can argue and debate all that but then I won’t be alive to write this post any further. So, let it be.
So we could say that NGO represents people from “all walks of life”, where Ambedkar is concerned, as RBI claims. I have no clue about the other “people from all walks of life” who want Shivaji, Nehru and IndiraG on our money. In the ET report RTI activist Manorajan Roy says: “Ironically , before the Mahatma , the Ashoka Pillar used to be the most dominant feature on our banknotes”. He tried to find out how and when the Mahatma took pride of place , but he drew a blank, with the RBI telling him there was no document that recorded the change . Silly Roy, how is he expecting the RBI to keep records of demands from “people from all walks of life”? That would be absurd, wouldn’t it?
In a time when the rupee is crashing, there’s economic sluggishness all around what inspires the RBI to think of images on our currency notes? I’m still wondering!
Now, the images of all the coins and notes you saw were from prior to 2004. In case you forgot, 2004 is the year the Congress party came back to power under the UPA alliance. What have we had since then? Take a look at the images. The first one is that of the one rupee coin. And what does it have? That’s a cross from the Catholic Church, a religious symbol. Not bad, you could pay someone, drop it in a box at temples, mosques and churches and say “With blessings of the Lord”. Hmmm! After some protests by the so called Right wing communal fascists that symbol was scrapped. But that will remain in numismatic history forever.
Next, in 2009 we had the image of St.Alphonsa, the first of Indian to be canonized by the Catholic Church. I would say an honour that is fair. Still, a religious figure. I’m not sure millions of Indians even remotely know who St.Alphonsa is but it’s always nice to educate our unwashed masses on glorious religious figures under our ‘secular’ constitution. Oh, it doesn’t end there. Before that, we had the new 10 rupee coin where the Cross surfaced. I believe that is still in currency. What can I say! I am only reminded of Warden Norton from ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ telling illiterate Indians – “ I believe in two things – discipline and the Bible. Put your faith in the Lord, your Ass belongs to me”.
So what’s with RBI’s new intentions of Shivaji, Ambedkar, Nehru and IndiraG? First, the 2014 elections aren’t too far away. Shivaji won’t campaign and is universally respected in India, maybe more so in some places so I don’t think he’s gonna win too many votes. But hey, I am not sure about Ambedkar, Nehru and IndiraG. Our political parties have made these illustrious figures their political icons to divide the nation. There is no end to the number of streets, monuments, memorials, universities, airports and chawls named after these figures. Nehru and IndiraG, in particular, cannot be missed in India no matter where you go. Even buses in cities are under some JNURM scheme. The Congress would love to have them on our currency notes and coins. And there is Ambedkar. His legacy has largely been consumed by the BSP and to some extent the Congress. The election campaign can count his image on the currency notes as an important contribution and uplift of the lives of Dalits. Bingo!
In reality both Nehru and IndiraG are politically divisive figures, unlike MKG. Their contributions to India are doubtless. But there are certain issues that cannot be wished or wiped away. Nehru’s foreign and domestic policies and vision are mostly ground to dust. The taint of Emergency is a serious blot on the legacy of IndiraG. But symbols and symbolism are important, especially when elections are looming. Nominate Sachin Tendulkar to the RS, make him call on SoniaG, give him a house next to RahulG (which bombed, of course). Invite actor Aamir Khan, the new-born social reformer, to address parliament or give them suggestions. And put political figures used in election campaigns and to divide people on caste and religion on our currency notes.
Now, if MKG were alive he would ask RBI to burn all the notes bearing his image and put the farmer on the notes. Ummm… with a minor difference though! You see, our farmers are now known for the troubles they face and the exploitation at the hands of land grabbers and other politicians. Debts, suicides, lack of irrigation, droughts, poverty – you name it and you’ll find it in most farmer households. So I believe a pic, like the one I’ve put up, would truly be a symbol of this day and age in India. And what’s more? Each time you spend money it would remind you of the hapless farmer and his dire straits. I strongly recommend RBI use that image on our notes.
The other group that Shastriji ‘Jai’d’ has been a long suffering one without proper due even in death or in serious injury. Politicians hardly inspire pride anymore. Nothing would do the nation proud in seeing a tribute being paid to the Amar Jawan in our currency notes. Neither the Kisan nor our soldiers are divisive forces. In fact they tend to unite people regardless of all their political and religious beliefs. We don’t need any more politicians on our currency notes. Figures that instil national pride would help.
But knowing how well many institutions have been destroyed under the current UPA govt. the RBI’s cruel intentions of politicising our currency may still succeed. This must be stopped. Of course, you have seen strong protests by our mainstream media against the designs of RBI, haven’t you? And you’ve seen all the TV news channels screaming against them, haven’t you? The only thing RBI hasn’t yet managed to say on our currency notes is “Vote for….”.