| An illegal money exchange counter in Raxaul. Picture by Jai Prakash |
Illegal money exchange counters are doing brisk business in Raxaul on the India-Nepal border, fleecing tourists of an average Rs 2 per Rs 100 in the name of commission.
Residents and businessmen in the area said makeshift money exchange counters, locally known as Satahi counters, have come up by the roadside recently. The target of the people manning the counters are mostly the tourists who travel between Nepal and Raxaul and need to exchange the unused money left in their wallets.
A source said: “The tourists travelling to the mountainous country are persuaded by the men at the counters to exchange rupee with Nepalese rupee. Those who come to India are also advised to exchange the unused Nepali currency left in their purses.”
There are 40 such counters in the border town and the “owners” conduct business of Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh a month. Also exchanged are the currencies of Bhutan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
If the visitors are eager to know the exchange rate at the counters, they have to go to the rate boards fixed at the stalls. According to the board, for 100 Nepalese rupees, a visitor would get INR 60. At the present exchange rate, 100 Nepalese rupees should fetch a person INR 61.49. But, the actual amount the customer gets if around INR 58.75. The difference is claimed as the exchange’s commission.
Under the legal framework, the Foreign Exchange Management Act specifies that all foreign exchange transactions have to be routed through authorised entities licensed by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to undertake such transactions. The authorised entities may be a commercial bank, a money changer, a financial institution authorised for limited kind of transactions, depending on their activity or any other entity authorised by the RBI.
Residents alleged that the illegal counters flourish with their owners’ sharing their profits with district administration officials and police.
Raxaul sub-divisional magistrate Sayeeda Khatoon denied knowledge of any such racket.