They are coins, but some find it difficult to count

They are coins, but some find it difficult to count

After years of struggle, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has finally brought out a circular, a few months ago asking commercial banks to issue independent bank accounts, ATM cards, cheque book and internet banking facilities to persons with visual challenge. But before they could savour the success comes another mortal blow, this time affecting many of them. Yes, you guessed it, the Rs 10 coin.

According to several persons with visual challenge, the coin appears no different from the Rs 2 coins in circulation. There may be a slight difference in thickness, but a person with visual challenge in a hurry is not going to discern it. Argument that it is different in colour — it goes without saying — only reflects ignorance.

Some weeks ago, when the coin was in circulation in Mumbai, the problem was brought to the public notice by the National Association for the Blind (NAB-Mumbai). Most of the vision impaired netizens voiced instant protest and suggested another court battle to force the government — which mints the coins — to make the latest ones discernable for the visually challenged.

Any sense of weariness on the part of the community, which has been to the court for almost all kinds of discriminatory actions by the government and the society, is only understandable. The problem is such that despite the country having several prominent lawyers, only a few, that too those who are blind themselves, have represented the community in the courts.

Losing hard earned money
The weariness, or perhaps a pragmatic approach of solving the problem, must have prompted the NAB-Mumbai to call on K K Tiwari, deputy general manager, India Government Mint for a live demonstration on how a string of recently minted coins, including Rs 10, have been causing troubles for hundreds of persons with visual challenge. They also explained how they may lose their own money by giving wrong change while commuting in local transport or buying things on their own in shops.

The demonstration revealed how persons with visual challenged struggled not only to differentiate Rs 10 from Rs 2 coins, but could not recognise a special coin released to commemorate Louis Braille’s bicentenary. Several suggestions, including introducing various shapes such as octagonal, pentagonal and hexagonal coins, changes in size and thickness, and introducing cuts at the edges for the blind to touch and feel have been made to the official.

Despite the palpable hope and confidence the meeting has generated, several persons with visual challenge have been puzzled by the declaration of the official that keeping the shape of all coins as round is ‘government criteria’. He did not give any clear reason during the meeting for steadfastly adhering to that criteria.

If changing of shapes can help several poor persons with visual challenge to save a few hard earned money; if the public is not going to object to such a change (which, given the reasons, it won’t); if the issue of mistaking the coins is something that affects everyone, there seems no real reason why the government should hold on to its criteria.
The hope amongst persons with visual challenge is that officials would finally see the point and drop the attitude of following the rules by the letter and give the poor members of the society some consideration.

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