The 1861 Paper Currency Act provided Government of India the monopoly of issuing notes thus curbing the note issuance authority of Private and Presidency Banks. Paper notes of values ranging from 10, 20, 50, 100 and 1000 were issued during British India period. Even at the primitive times of manufacturing these notes the manufacturer (Laverstock Paper Mills) issued it along with few prominent security features that include watermark, printed signatures and note registration
In addition to above a rather peculiar practice was followed. British India Notes facilitated inter-spatial transfer of funds. As a security precaution, notes were cut in half. One set was sent by post. On confirmation of receipt, the other half was dispatched by post! Talk about extreme measures!!
As mentioned before, compulsions of the First World War ensured emergence of paper currencies of small denominations. These were basically one, two rupee notes and their issuance were discontinued owing to printing costs of these notes being significantly high than their actual values. Also during the war, Japanese Operations to destabilize Indian currency involved high quality forgeries.
Issuance of the first currencies of independent India meant that symbols representing the new spirit had to be chosen. At the outset it was felt that the King’s portrait be replaced by a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi. Designs were prepared to that effect. In the final analysis, the consensus moved to the choice of the Lion Capital at Sarnath in lieu of the Gandhi Portrait
Prominent places like Tanjore Temple, Gateway of India were printed on the reverse side of these notes. Owing to similar cost-benefit ratios as mentioned above high denomination notes (Rs. 500, Rs. 1000) were demonetized around 1980 (reintroduced later).
The Mahatma Gandhi Series (issued in 1996) notes saw advancements in printing techniques deeming traditional security methods as inadequate. The following new security features were incorporated (and continue to be):
- Mahatma Gandhi watermark
- Silver security
- Latent image
- Optically variable ink
- Back to back registration
In addition to above security features each note carries the following tactile and visual features to assist significantly large number of its illiterate population, and help in speedy identification of various denominations.
- All notes and coins have different sizes.
- All notes have different color combinations.
- Most of the higher denomination notes have their denominations and some of the features embossed. Also, different geometric shapes (triangle, rectangle, etc.) are embossed on left of watermark window for visually impaired.
- Reverse side of the notes have the currency value printed in most of the recognized (English and Hindi on front and 15 others on back) National languages.
As of now, coins are minted at the four India Government Mints at Mumbai, Alipore (Kolkata), Saifabad (Hyderabad), Cherlapally (Hyderabad) and NOIDA (UP) and currency notes are currently printed at currency note press, Nashik, Bank Note Press, Dewas, Bharatiya Note Mudra Nigam (P) Limited presses at Salboni and Mysore and at the Watermark Paper Manufacturing Mill, Hoshangabad.
In the next page I will cover some of the salient security features imprinted in the paper notes. Do note that these features are valid at the time of publication of this post, but need not hold good forever. Also the security features are non-exhaustive.