INR: Royal Monetary Authority disbursed INR 8.3 million on the first day of its reopening the Indian Rupee (INR) exchange counters at its head office in Thimphu and its Phuentsholing branch office yesterday.
The facility is primarily for pilgrims travelling to India. The three counters in Thimphu paid INR 7.2M and the two counters in Phuentsholing paid INR 1.1M. About 220 availed of the service in Thimphu, and 36 people exchanged at the Phuentsholing branch office.
The authority would inject INR 200M (million) a month in to the counters.
An individual going on pilgrimage could exchange up to Rs 50,000 on production of identity card to the exchange counter tellers.
Reopening of the counters is to improve and supplement the exchange services already being rendered by the five commercial banks.
Making INR freely accessible to the general public for all legitimate transactions, RMA is trying to re-enforce the national policy of maintaining one to one parity between Ngultrum and INR.
Considering the national significance of the policy and practice, RMA asked the general public to refrain from misusing or abusing the facility for personal gains.
“Through the Financial Intelligence Unit the RMA will be instituting stringent monitoring and surveillance systems and any person found misusing the facility would be subject to penalties,” a press release from the authority stated.
A regular pilgrim to India, Jangchub Dorji said opening up more counter has helped.
“To avail the service from the banks we’ve to be early, I couldn’t exchange yesterday for I was late,” he said. The new counter closed at 3pm.
INR exchange is also available to Indians from across the border in the four banks in Phuentsholing since yesterday. However, this opening is entirely different from that of the INR counters opened for pilgrims.
Right after it was announced that the exchange was available, many people, both Bhutanese and Indian, were seen trying to get INR.
About 20 to 30 Indians had taken INR from the Bank of Bhutan. Four Indians took INR from Bhutan National Bank, while about three availed from Druk PNB Bank Limited. T Bank Limited saw two Indian customers.
An Indian citizen is allowed to exchange up to Rs 50,000 after verifying their voter identity cards. To avail more than Rs 50,000, they have to produce Permanent Account Number (PAN) cards.
Jaigaon Merchant Association’s General Secretary RS Gupta at the launch yesterday promised they would play fair and not allow anyone who would run illegal business of buying and selling INR.
“We vow to do business,” he said. “But we would not allow people to do money business.”
RS Gupta also stated that there were betel nut (paan) shops in Jaigaon that became exchange counters. There was nothing they could do as business had to operate, he added.
If anybody is found operating illegal buying and selling of INR, which ultimately devaluated Ngultrum, RS Gupta also said they would report to the police and punish them.
“We will give full support,” the General Secretary said, thanking RMA and finance ministry for bringing up exchange counters.
Meanwhile, the association also requested the RMA to open Jaigaon traders’ accounts in Bhutan. The association has requested the RMA and the finance ministry to see the possibilities of opening certain Jaigaon traders’ accounts in banks within Bhutan.
“It is just a request and not yet decided,” RS Gupta said, explaining that there could be some news on the matter by March this year.
RMA, RS Gupta said would look towards having dialogue with the Reserve Bank of India, following which something would materialize.
“Money laundering will not happen in these accounts,” RS Gupta said. “However, nothing is final at this moment.”
The country’s convertible currency reserve today stands at USD 836M, the rupee reserve at INR 15 billion.
Rajesh Rai and Tshering Palden