While social media is abuzz with warnings about banks not accepting soiled or scribbled currency notes from January 1, customers have nothing to worry about as the said Reserve Bank of India (RBI) circular concerns only banks. You can still submit and exchange soiled or scribbled notes at the bank branch. The circular, which dates back to August 14, 2013, was issued in pursuance of the central bank's "clean note policy" that aims to dissuade banks from stapling of fresh note packets or writing and scribbling on the currency.

"These are mere rumors. The guidelines being referred to probably relate to a May circular and an earlier one issued in 2001 by the RBI. It is only meant for banks, which have been asked not to staple or write anything on the notes. Again, they were asked not to re-issue such notes and sort them separately," said Rajesh Kumar, RBI currency issue department's regional general manager.

Kumar said that customers need not fear refusal of such notes from banks. "RBI hasn't directed banks not to accept such currency notes," he said. According to RBI guidelines, customers can exchange soiled notes at bank branches for their full value, while mutilated notes can be exchanged for half the price.

The clean note policy

"It has been noticed that at certain bank branches, the practice of writing/scribbling on the banknotes continues. Under the present system of mechanized processing of banknotes, inscription or scribbling would render it to be classified as unfit for reissue. Accordingly, such banknotes get treated as soiled banknotes and cannot be recirculated."

Where to complain?

In case of any complaint, bank's controlling officer can be contacted in case the bank staff refuses to accept or exchange soiled/scribbled notes. If nothing is done even then, the regional RBI office at Sector 17 and the currency issue department can be approached.

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