Examine foreign currencies to make rupee notes blind-friendly, HC tells RBI

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Mumbai, jan 15:
The Bombay high court (HC) on Monday directed the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to examine currencies of “advanced countries” like the US Dollar, British Pound and Euro to develop features that would make notes user-friendly for those who are visually-impaired and blind. The RBI has been asked to submit its report to the court in two weeks.
The court was hearing a petition filed by the National Association of the Blind (NAB), which pointed out the new currency notes and coins were difficult to distinguish by touch, and sought directions to include distinctive features in the new coins and currency notes.
“Find out as to how currency in advanced countries – like the dollar, pound, Euro – are made blind-friendly,” the bench of chief justice Naresh Patil and justice Nitin Jamdar told RBI’s counsel, advocate VR Dhond. “See if there are any marks embedded on these currencies that make them blind-friendly.”
According to data supplied by the government in 2018, India has approximately 80 lakh people who suffer from either visual impairment or blindness. The State Development and Finance Corporation for the Disabled has estimated there are 5.74 lakh people with visual disabilities in Maharashtra.
The older versions of currency notes had tactile features like embossing and bleed lines — elevated markings that can be felt — and could be distinguished by their sizes. Some of these notes were withdrawn in 2016 and new currency notes were introduced after demonetisation in November that year.
Advocate Uday Warunjikar, appearing for the NAB, said the new currency notes and several new coins introduced by the RBI are not user-friendly for the visually-impaired and blind.
He said apart from marks on notes and coins, the size of currency notes and coins earlier increased with the denomination. This no longer applies to the new notes.
Dhond said all new currency notes carry water marks on the left side and have distinctive marks that should help the visually-impaired identify the denomination.
He also submitted that there is no rule that requires currency notes increase in size with an increase in denomination. Warunjikar responded with the claim that the marks Dhond had mentioned were susceptible to diminution with time and after a certain period, get “washed away”.
The judges then sought to know the international practice to make currency disabled-friendly, and directed the RBI to examine this aspect and submit a report to the court in two weeks.

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