Money Changers of Dalhousie Square

9 11 2016

Money changers will have a field day from today for exchanging larger denomination notes with smaller ones, after the govt announced the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes.

I am reminded of Kolkata in the 1990s. In Dalhousie square, Kolkata, the RBI and the GPO are very close by. Outside of GPO, I used to find a lot of vendors, some standing and some sitting with a wooden desk carrying wads of crisp currency notes.

I was curious to know what service they were offering. I asked one of them. He was not eager to talk to me, because he knew I was not a potential customer of his. I approached another one and he was kind enough to explain to me.

Their service was converting smaller denomination old notes to Rs 100 and Rs 500 new crisp notes( Rs 1000 currency notes came only in 2000). This service was offered to the migrant labour from Bihar and eastern UP. These labour used to remit money to their family in villages. They did not use a cheque or Money order. They used to send crisp currency notes in insured letters from the GPO. The money changers would also offer the service of putting the currency inside the envelopes and writing the addresses for the illiterate labour. I heard, occasionally, by a sleight of hand they would insert one or two currency notes less.

My friends from Kolkata tell me these money changers and their unique service continues to this day.

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