Bank notes are scrapped to beat laundering
A Pakistani government official has said that National Geographic’s famed green-eyed ‘Afghan Girl’ has been deported to Afghanistan. Fayaz Khan said Sharbat Gulla and her four children were handed over to Afghan authorities early yesterday at the Torkham border crossing, about 60km northwest of the Pakistani city of Peshawar. Gulla was arrested in late October on charges of carrying fake Pakistani ID papers and staying in Pakistan illegally. A Peshawar court later ordered her deported. She gained international fame in 1984 as an Afghan refugee girl, after war photographer Steve McCurry’s photograph of her, with piercing green eyes, was published on National Geographic’s cover. McCurry found her again in 2002. However, in 2014, she went into hiding after authorities accused her of buying fake Pakistani documents. India has scrapped its highest-denomination currency notes, delivering a blow to black-market money launderers but plunging hundreds of millions of common citizens holding cash savings into fear and uncertainty.
Within hours of Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing the surprise move in a televised address, people thronged to ATMs, standing in long lines in hopes of grabbing bills that might still be in circulation yesterday.
As of midnight on Tuesday, all 500 and 1,000-rupee notes had no cash value. Modi assured that people holding the discontinued notes would be able to deposit them in banks and post office savings accounts before the end of the year and that new bills for 500 and 2,000 rupees were being printed and sent quickly to banks.
He said anyone making large bank deposits in the coming weeks would find themselves the target of Indian tax authorities.
“A few people are spreading corruption for their own benefit,” he said in the speech. “There is a time when you realise that you have to bring some change in society, and this is our time.”
For a few days, the old bills would still be accepted at hospitals, petrol stations, crematoria and for other businesses and services deemed essential.
Banks applauded the move as the strongest-ever measure against the parallel, black economy and pledged to quickly restock their cash reserves with the newly printed bills.
“It’s a good measure,” said Anuj Mathur, a banker who was among more than two dozen people lined up outside a south New Delhi ATM machine about 10pm on Tuesday. It will be inconvenient for a few days, but “this will clean up the system”.
Modi said authorities have discovered 1.25 trillion rupees, or about $18.8 billion, in illegal cash over the last two and a half years. Counterfeiting was also a major concern, he said.
CASHING OUT: All 500 and 1,000-rupee notes are being taken out of circulation