Last month, when I wswas travelling from Indore to Bhopal and as my cab crossed the first toll booth on the highway, the cabbie handed me a ten rupees note and 3 eclairs (Cadbury was not written on those fake éclairs). As i was doing a post mortem of those counterfeit eclairs, which is my habit, the driver adviced not to gulp them as the same could be handed over at the very next toll booth. I resisted the temptation and utilized those eclairs. This cycle continued until we crossed all the four toll booths. The éclairs received at one toll booth were readily acceptable at the other in place of coins. I had been receiving such chocolates instead of coins at the provision stores, but never knew that the same would be even acceptable to them. Even swanky hyper markets spread over thousands of square feet, have a separate box at their cash counters for these 1 rupee candies along with the coins. Welcome to a country where candy is replacing coins.
This, “a candy for a coin” trend reminds me of a lesson from my school days where I was taught the concept of barter system. Certain commodities where assigned a specific value and were traded in exchange of certain other commodities : Goats for a sack of rice, horses for a sack of wheat. Due to the difficulties faced in carrying and valuing the goats and the horses, metallic coins were introduced even before Christ was born. Some wise man said that history repeats itself, and now because of the shortage of metallic coins, we have found a new substitute for it in the form of candy. Looking at the ease at which these candies are getting acceptable at all places, I wonder if the RBI or the Government of India is having some secret plans to introduce an official 1 rupee chocolate candy promising to provide the bearer a sum equivalent to rupee one. Who knows, it can even introduce 10 rupees official chocolate bars in place of currency notes. In case the chocolate bar is ina melted state, it may be treated at par with a soiled note. Welcome to a country where currency is wrapped up in a shining wrapper.
Jokes apart, this phenomenon of giving “a candy for a coin” is not as simple as it prima facie appears to be. Its roots are deeper than they appear. The prices of steel, which is the raw material for coins in India, have been zooming northwards for quite some time now. As a result of which, the intrinsic value of an Indian coin far exceeds the legal or face value of such coin. The coins which are in circulation in the market are being collected from the market at a premium, melted and then supplied for manufacturing razor blades and other petty steel articles. It has actually become a lucrative business in some parts of the country. This has lead to a shortage of coins in the Indian market. But a person’s bane may be another person’s boon. Shortage of coins has led to the flooding of markets with 1 rupee candies, which the shopkeepers are using instead of coins. I am sure that one day some political party will take this issue to the Parliament that blah blah MNC is sucking the Indian coins to boost the sales of its candies.
Candy, the new Indian currency comes with unique features, thus covering up the shortcomings of the metallic Indian coins. Its intrinsic value is far less than its face value. A candy, worth a few paisas is actually worth a rupee in the market. Buying it at a premium and melting it would be of no use as it would again remain a candy only, though in a different shape. In case you feel hungry and even if u have a coin, you cannot eat it. But this new currency can immediately satisfy your hunger. Welcome to a country where cocoa is replacing metal.
The factors of Demand and Supply drive an economy. From cows to coins and then from coins to candies, these factors will keep evolving the exchange system. Paying the toll tax made me realize that its not only the state of highways which is changing in India, but also its currency. Candy has become India’s new legal tender, its new currency.