Most of my monthly payments like phone bills have an online payment option, I subscribe and pay it online and make sure I pay exactly up to the last paise. For those things that cannot be paid online, if cheque is a possibility I pay by cheque. Anything that is taken electronically it is accounted up to the last paise. I realized when I traveled to USA the first time, wherever I have to deal with cash, any balance amount I was to receive, I would get it exactly up to the last cent. In India, when there are situations where you have to pay cash, there are some denominations losing their value and people take it for granted by not returning it back or replacing it with something as simple as a toffee. Examples where this would happen include grocery shops, city buses etc. When I was young I used to get a stick ice, flavored with fruit syrup for 5 paise. It’s hard to see 5, 10, 20, 25 paise coins these days. Slowly 50 paise coins seem to join the list. A change of 50 paise is either not returned or replaced with a toffee.
If you have had an experience traveling in the city buses, particularly in metropolitan cities most likely you would have experienced this. The ticket denominations are still in such a way that you would have to give or get a 50 paise. The conductor (personnel deployed in the bus to collect fare and issue ticket according to the stop where the traveler wishes to step down) either doesn’t give back 50 paise or he writes the balance amount on the back of the ticket so that the traveller can collect it back before getting down. If you are traveling during peak hours, most likely you have to give up the balance. One of the reasons is because of the crowd, you would find it difficult to locate the conductor, and second you would be focusing on getting down from the bus in the stop you want to get down without getting stuck in the crowd. Even if you get a chance to get to the conductor, he would most likely ask for the 50 paise to return back one rupee or whatever rounded off balance is. End of the day it is not the business that gets this additional money but the individual, because anything in excess during accounting at the end of the day goes to his/her pocket.
What happens to the accounts of the person who lost that 50 paise? Usually people ignore it and in local terms call it off under Gandhi’s account. Not sure why it is called so, but I have a feeling it was called so because whenever you see Gandhi’s smile in the currency after you have lost money that cannot be accounted, it so seems to be a sarcastic smile . If someone tries to recover, it is more likely that he/she has to spend time and effort in recovering it back.
The thought seed - People who face such losses are usually of the middle class segment. India’s estimated middle class population is about 350 million. For the sake of assumption let’s say if every person in the 350 million looses 50 paise in a year then almost 125 million Rupees go into “The Gandhi’s account” every year. If there was a way to collect this amount by the Government, this can be used for noble cause, since it is handsomely a large amount. Of course there’s again a choice for the person to donate that balance or put it back into his/her bank account. What if there was a deposit card, like a credit or a debit card that works the other way? The business that has to pay back an amount (even if it is 5 paise) deposits that respective sum back through the user’s deposit card. Am not here to explain on how the logistics or the business rules behind it would make it work, but I am sure with some thought, there could be several rules framed around it to make it happen for the right purpose and this in itself is not used for more corruption. As always there are technologies that can help make this happen.
Images/Image Editing Courtesy - Naveen Kumar