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Demonetized Indian Notes to Play Role in South Africa Elections

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A year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the controversial demonetization move, the scrapped currency notes that were returned to banks are traveling overseas to be used in South Africa’s election campaigns as hardboard for placards and hoardings.

The notes, which were recycled into hard boards by Kannur-based company Western Indian Plywood Ltd, will be used for the campaigns in South Africa, which goes to polls in 2019. The company received about 800 tons of demonetized notes from the Reserve Bank of India office in Thiruvananthapuram, Marketing Head P Mehboob told the New Indian Express.

“After the currency notes came to the RBI, they were shredded and sent to us because we have the machinery to pulp these notes, which are of high quality,” Mehboob was quoted as saying in the report. “We manufacture hard and soft boards using wood pulp. Once we received the shredded notes, somewhere between 5 per cent to 15 per cent of the pulped currency is added to the wood pulp in order to make the boards. We use the technique of thermomechanical pulping to pulp high-quality currency.”

While the company has been making plywood for decades, using demonetized notes in such high volume to make hardboard was an innovation, Mehboob said. Hardboard made with currency pulp is sturdier and has a distinct appearance, General Manager TM Bava told the publication.

“Shortly after demonetization was announced, the Reserve Bank based in Thiruvananthapuram approached us. They didn’t how to dispose of the notes. If burnt, it would cause massive environmental damage since the notes are made of special currency paper. We asked them to send us samples. Then our Research & Development wing found a method by which we can use the notes,” he added.

The company paid about Rs 200 per ton to the RBI.

Western Indian Plywood Ltd was set up in 1945 at Valapattanam in Kannur. It manufactures plywood, block boards and flush doors. While they have earlier supplied material to Gulf and African nations, this would be the first time hardboard made out of Indian currency would be sent out.

The RBI said that 98.96 per cent of the demonetized currency, amounting to about Rs 15.28 lakh crore, has come back into the system.

Notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination were declared invalid overnight in a midnight televised announcement on Nov. 8 last year, following which citizens were required to return the notes. The move, the government said, was meant to reduce corruption, weed out black money and attack counterfeit currency in the market.

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