Sunday, November 25, 2012

Where the coins have gone?

                                 Where the coins have gone?
People   face an acute shortage of coins of smaller denominations, making even the simplest tasks of buying groceries and vegetables, Paying for bus or auto fares, or commuting a complicated transaction.
It seems that suddenly no has the coins to give but only to take. Coins of one and five rupee appear to vanish from the market. If your vegetable or grocery bill end with two or Five (say 12 or 15), the shopkeeper asks you to either give the coins, take less or more or accept cheap candies. It seems that they are helpless.
I asked my friends and overheard people discussing over the same problem.
One of the common answers I found out is that One and Five-rupee coins are now the cheapest source of raw material for manufacturers of Blade, fancy metal items and false jewelry. A metallurgist friend of me told me that each single one-rupee coin if melted could make a pack of six razor blades.
At present Re 1, copper nickel will have metal value of Rs 2.50, while Re 1 nickel coin could be worth Rs 10.  Many said that Coins worth crores are locked in donation boxes of large temples. 
However, I was unsatisfied and tried to get some solid clues. If metal content and donations from ever increasing religious population in India is the matter then why the paper bank notes of 1,2 and five rupee are also rare?
One of my friends told me that RBI is the main source of issue of Coins and notes of smaller amounts followed by selected bank branches and currency chests. Earlier, traders like big retailers, hoteliers and bus syndicates use to get coins directly from RBI counters. I came to know the following information.
·       It is a recent policy matter of RBI to withdraw from all sorts of retail operations.
·       The number of coins issued at RBI office in Kolkata has come down from 400 bags (of 2000 coins each) to around 150 bags
·       In the monetary policy statement in April, RBI had said that it intended to channelize the distribution of bank notes and coins only through currency chests and bank branches.
·       RBI has also stopped printing of Bank notes of denominations of Rs 1, 2, and 5.
·       RBI has decided to change the raw material used for manufacturing of coins from Copper-Nickel to FSS (Ferritic Stainless Steel).
·        FSS is also a coveted metal for some industries, which would like to melt it to make fancy items and earn larger profits.
Call for looking for new methods.
  RBI must carry out research for minting coins or printing small value currency notes. This may be done in the following suggested ways.
·       There are Few PSU Banks, who are currently authorized to distribute coins. For example in N-24 paraganas district of Kolkata only two Branches of SBI deals with distribution of coins. There should be more bank branches with automatic coin vending machines.
·       Law keeping authorities can easily wipe out the illegal selling stalls of coin selling and hoarding.
·       Mint plastic tokens with security marks perhaps with a small metal foil type cover
·       Issue small currency notes with plastic lamination. The reason to discontinue the printing was that these notes soiled easily. Plastic lamination may minimize this problem.
·       Currency notes of odd denominations like Rs 6, 7, 9, 11, 15, 19 and so forth. Suppose your shopping bill is Rs 56. You take out a Rs 50 note from your purse and for the remaining 6 Rupees you search your pocket for coins or give the shopkeeper Rs 50+ 10. You may end up with accepting 4 useless candies.   The problem is often with odd figures. This may solve the problem to a large extent. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


                                   DURGAPUJA OF A ROYAL FAMILY.

 On my return journey from a remote place in NE I met a royal Family in a railway station waiting hall and heard this story from the Grandma of the Family. She told about the background and history how this family started their Durgapuja. The history of  their Durgapuja dated back to the regime of Nawbab Alibardi about 250 years back. The two brothers were Generals of the royal force and in a battle against the Maratha Force their horses carried them to a safe place. Later on in  their dream they were instructed to recover the gold idol of Devi Durga. They reconstruct the broken temple and started Durgapuja. On the day of Vijya Dussami they won the battle against the Maratha. Even in this time on every Vijya Dussami the royal family organize a mock fight. Read the full story for more details.

It was an unusual long waiting in the waiting all for a Puja Special Train. I was returning from a remote location of  NE part of  India to Kolkata just before few days before the Durga Puja festival.e Marat
A big group with children arrived and much to my dismay, the peace of the waiting hall was disturbed. The group was led by an old lady. She could be well in her early seventies with faint wrinkles on her rose-pearly complexion.
Her butter colored pure Silk Saree with appropriate embroidered blue border and matching pure pearl jewelry and a soft but commanding voice was giving a hint of her blue blood.
As I could guess from their talking, they are most likely the few remnant Tea garden owners who still visit their ancestral Village home in Bengal during Durga Puja. They are mostly from big Landlord families of old times.
The majestic Old Lady  guessed my disturbance and asked one of the accompanying helping hands to unpack a carpet and velvet pillows. Seeing this, the naughtiest of her grandchildren told her
“Thakma (Grandmother), tell us about the mock fight that we see every year on the day of Vijaya Dussami.”
Thakma understood what this naughty child was asking for.
“Sweets shall be only after lunch.”
His other brother and sisters who just returned from outside with their mothers protested
“ No Thakma, . Sweets or not, we want to hear that story from you.”
Their grandma settled comfortably on the carpet and her grandchildren and the two daughter-in laws joined. Her voice, although soft but distinct could be heard even from my position.
“That time was more than two fifty years from now. The Nawbab of Bengal, Alibardi was facing a tough time from two sides. Seeing the ailing old Nawbab, the syndicate of heirs started infighting among themselves. Simultaneously, the Marathas although taking a heavy amount from the Nawab as “Chauth” were invading his kingdom continuously. Marathas fighting on horse back and supported by efficient artillery had more striking powers than his infantry and not so good artillery. 
On hearing secret news of possible Maratha invasion, Nawbab sent two of his most brave and loyal generals Vikram and Subir. The generals were brave and unlike other generals they maintained  cavalry .They  had a good knowledge of Fire Power. Their ancestors went to Tibet and China and learnt the technique of making shells of Canon and metallurgy for making Canons.

Vikram and Subir   were about to win a fierce battle against the Marathas. Unfortunately, a shell from their side missed the target and it hit the surface near the Cavalry.
The horses became nervous and a big chaos happened. The cavalry, covering the two brother Generals got detached from them. However, while fighting one to one, the generals were wounded and unconscious. Their horses carried them away from the battlefield to safe place. The loyal soldiers traced them deep inside a forest by the side of a big Pond and an abandoned temple.
An old lady met the soldiers and gave them herbs and a pitcher of Sherbat.  As per her instruction, they made a paste of these herbs, rubbed it on the wounds of their beloved Generals, and slowly fed them the pitcher of Sherbat.
Overnight the wounds healed up and both the brothers regained their sense. They got up and recollected a dream.  Surprisingly both of them saw simultaneously the same dream.  
They saw a goddess in their dream who told them that she was the presiding deity of the Temple. To save her from the hands of Marthas, the Head Priest of the temple threw her in the Pond.
In the morning, they would see a moving plank floating on the top in the pond. They should swim in the pond and follow the plank. Wherever the Plank becomes standstill, first the elder brother would dive down. After he comes back to surface, the younger brother would dive down.
The elder brother Vikram recovered only two gold hands of the deity and a Mighty sword. The younger brother Subir recovered the gold Idol of Durga. The solders saw the idol and said in the last evening, the old lady who gave them the herbs and Pitcher of Sherbat had strong similarity with the Idol.
They placed back the idol in the Temple. Vikram and Subir decided to send one of their men to bring the head family priest for further advice.
In the following night, they saw another dream. Devi Durga asked them to recover a manuscript written on Palm leaves from a hidden tunnel, inside the temple. They should worship her as per the instructions and Mantras of the Manuscript.
 The head priest along with many others consisting of family members of the two brothers, artisans arrived shortly. They also brought important information.
Nawbab Alibardi breathed his last and infighting among the possible heirs of the throne started. The capital of Murshidabad was no longer safe from them in the changed scenario. None of the heirs to the throne liked them and might possibly snatch away their powers and positions in the court.
The brothers decided not to return to capital and preferred to remain in this place to study the follow-ups. One thing was clear to them. Whoever might become the Nawbab of Bengal fall in the clutches of Mirzafar and alliance. They would avoid fight with the Mararthas and make never-ending compromises.
The Priest studied the manuscript of Palm leaves and advised the brothers to start worshiping the Idol of Durga Devi on the forthcoming scheduled Durgapuja of the Year.
Only few month’s time was left. But, the skilled artisans of the Generals quickly reconstructed the temple and the surrounding village.
This village was far from the capital town of Vishnupur. But the King of Vishnupur Hambir Malla came to know about the brothers. The brothers were well known both for their bravery and for knowledge of Firepower. The king heard their names before and called them to his court.
Maharaja Hambir Malla was worried about the possible Maratha invasion in his state. His soldiers were mostly infantry and without any knowledge of firepower.  The Maratha forces were mostly cavalry with firepower. With quick penetration power, they were superior to his army.
He appointed the brothers to be the chief of his army and to train his soldiers. The brothers advised the King to construct tall Minars on war footing around the kingdom. These Minars installed with canons would not only track the Maratha force from a distance but at time of need could shell the cavalry of the Maratha force.
By that time, the Artisans of Generals developed lightweight canons. These canons even could be easily loaded on bullock carts.
Durga Puja started but the people on the Minar spotted the Mararthas  led by Bhaskar Pandit were   advancing towards the capital. On the day of Mahastami of Durga Puja, the Marathas were near the Forest adjacent to the new village settlement of the Generals. The Generals worked out a strategy to save the capital of Vishnupur Maharaja.
Bhaskar Pundit’s force saw few  Bullock carts were coming towards them in the narrow path of Forest. Taking them as villagers, they shouted at them to go back and move sideways to clear the path of the soldier movement. The bullock carts turned back and moved in sideways only to surround the invading force in a semicircle.
The back of each bullock cart was fitted with small canon packed with hay on both side. As these small canons started firing, it took the Marathas by surprise and they were flown like hay. They started dispersing here and there only to fall prey of the powerful infantry of the General’s force.
But the contingent led by Bhaskar Pandit of Marathas cleverly bypassed this attack and moved towards the capital.
That was the morning of Mahanavami day of Durga Puja. Just at the sunrise, a big platoon of Infantry and artillery of small canons led by the General Subir on the field of Gangani, the gorge of Shilabati River, were ready to counter the move of Bhaskar Pandit.
A fierce battle took place. Bhaskar Pandit divided his troupe in small groups to capture the small canons. General Subir deliberately allowed them.
The Marthas captured the canons only to find out the defective shells that did not fire. While they wee busy doing it, Bhaskar Pandit was left with few platoons.
The groups of canon snatchers were returning to join Bhaskar Pandit. But they were unaware of the Bigger canons fitted in the Minars and on the Gorge top.
As the shelling started from these places, The Maratha force being confused from all ends were dispersed leaving Bhaskar Pandit to fight alone with few troupes. Bhaskar Pandit was a great fighter and few could stand before him. However, he and few of his followers could not put much resistance but they fought bravely.
 At the Sunset, heavily injured Bhaskar Pundit’s loyals forced him to quit for this time and moved away with heavy casualty on his side. General Subir and his soldiers returned the capital after wining the battle on the day of Vijaya Dasami.
The king wanted to reward the brothers heavily. He told the brothers to take that much area of the land in his kingdom, which a horse could cover from dawn to dusk. The brothers politely declined and requested the king to give them only five villages surrounding their new village.
This village is our Nayagar. General Vikram and Subir were our ancestors. We also took a major part in the freedom fighting against the British.”
The arrival of Holiday special was announced. AS the Grandma and her grandchildren stood up, the youngest listener asked
“But Grandma you did not tell us about the mock fight in our village on the Vijya dussami day”
Grandma smiled and said, “Do I have to tell you? The Durgapuja you see now in our ancestral house in the village started from that year of battle wining by our great ancestors.

Vijaya dussami is the day on which our ancestors won the battle with the Marathas. The mock fight, which you see on that day, is between the villagers of four villages and the village Martha Para in the western side. The Martha para villagers are the descendants of the Maratha prisoners of that battle. They did not want to return to their place. Our ancestors gave them that village.”