Govt mulls including Tagore and Abdul Kalam’s watermarks on bank notes

An RBI internal committee, in its report in 2020, proposed that besides Gandhi the watermark figures of Tagore and Kalam should also be developed for inclusion in currency notes

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The Finance Ministry and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) are reportedly considering using the watermark figures of Bengal’s greatest icon Rabindranath Tagore and India’s 11th President APJ Abdul Kalam on a new series of banknotes of some denominations, reports The New Indian Express.

At present, the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi’s watermark figure is on all denominations of Indian currency notes.

This is the first time that RBI is considering using the images of famous personalities other than Mahatma Gandhi on the banknotes. The RBI and the Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India (SPMCIL), which is under the Finance Ministry, are learnt to have sent two separate sets of samples of Gandhi, Tagore and Kalam watermarks to IIT-Delhi Emeritus Professor Dilip T Shahani. Shahani has been told to choose from the two sets and present them for final consideration by the government, says the report.

Professor Shahani, who is examining the watermarks, specialises in Electromagnetic Instrumentation. He was conferred with the Padma Shri by the Modi government in January this year.


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Decision taken at the ‘highest level’

Government sources said that a final decision on picking one or all the three images will be taken at the “highest level.” The New Indian Express says that according to sources, the designing of the three watermark samples had official sanction.

Top government sources revealed that sometime in 2017, one of nine RBI internal committees, which were formed to recommend new security features for a fresh series of banknotes, submitted its report in 2020, proposing that besides Gandhi the watermark figures of Tagore and Kalam should also be developed for inclusion in all currency notes barring the Rs 2,000 note whose printing had already stopped, the report says.

Talks on ‘finer aspects’

In 2021, the RBI issued directions to its Mysore-based Bharatiya Reserve Bank Note Mudran Pvt Ltd and the SPMCIL’s Security Paper Mill at Hoshangabad to design their very own units of the watermark samples. Later, the RBI and SPMCIL despatched their samples to Shahani, who then had a number of rounds of discussions with officers on the “finer aspects” of the samples.

In the United States too, US dollars carry portraits of some of the founding fathers such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Alexander Hamilton and a few 19th century presidents, including Abraham Lincoln.

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