RBI's own figures indicate return of 15 lakh crore of banned notes

New Delhi, Jan 14: Despite the Reserve Bank of India dismissing reports that suggested 97 per cent of the demonetised currency had returned to the bank's coffers by December 30, its own weekly figures on "currency in circulation" indicate that this number is correct.

These figures, in fact, suggest that only Rs 54,000 crore of the notes banned on November 8 last year failed to make it back.

More worryingly, this figure has been arrived at on the assumption that no new notes were issued after December 19 -- a near impossibility. This could well open up the intriguing possibility that more banned notes may have returned than were said to be in circulation.

December 19 was the last time the RBI gave any information on how much of the demonetised currency was back. Even the tally on new notes circulated are not available.

On Friday (January 13), in its weekly statistical supplement, the RBI said that the currency in circulation till January 6 was Rs 8.98 lakh crore.

This comprises new high-denomination currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 2000, smaller new and old currency notes of Rs 100, Rs 50, Rs 20 and Rs 10, plus the banned currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 which have not been returned.

On January 5, the RBI had sought to question figures of 97 per cent return of banned currency put out by news agency Bloomberg. In a statement RBI said "figures would need to be reconciled with the physical cash balances to eliminate accounting errors/possible double counts etc," and till then "any estimate may not indicate the actual numbers."

Let us now calculate from RBI's figures how much of the banned notes are back.

On November 8, according to reply given in Rajya Sabha on December 2 by the Minister of State for Finance, Arjun Ram Meghwal, there were 17,165 million pieces of Rs 500 notes and 6,858 million pieces of Rs 1,000 notes in circulation. That amounts to a total of Rs 15.44 lakh crore in value. 

Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, had said that in value terms this was 86 per cent of the total currencies in circulation, which would amount to Rs 17.95 lakh crore (Rs 17.97 lakh crore on November 4, according to RBI).