Fake currency circulation poses threat to south Tamil Nadu tourism

September 25th, 2008 - 2:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Madurai, Sep 25 (IANS) The flourishing tourist trade in south Tamil Nadu, worth over Rs.10 billion, is under threat as counterfeit currency is slowly infiltrating the region, the police said Thursday. “The increased frequency of north Indian tourists visiting southern Tamil Nadu is being utilised by criminal elements to pass fake currency notes because the locals are simple-minded and trust affluent looking strangers,” Sanjeev Kumar, inspector general, south zone said.

“During the last two months, four persons from Bihar have been arrested with wads of fake Rs.500 and Rs.1000 denomination notes in Kanyakumari district alone,” Kumar added.

At least 40 cases are pending in the south zone of the state - some as old as 3 years. While short public memory and lack of witnesses have delayed matters, many suspects have got bail and disappeared, police sources said.

“Though there is no cause for a major alarm as most establishments have been advised to check high denomination notes, lack of specialised equipments in major banks is making our job somewhat difficult. This criminal activity can arguably affect part of the flourishing tourist economy worth at least Rs.10 billion,” Kumar said.

One of the factors that has led to the increase in tourist traffic to the south is the reported danger to Ram Sethu, a mythical structure believed to have been constructed by Lord Ram thousands of years ago, locals said.

“While locals are unperturbed about the issue, curious devout Hindus from the rest of India are flocking here to take a ‘last look’ at the causeway without realising they actually cannot, since it is several feet under water. The situation is being utilised by unscrupulous local boatmen and criminals from elsewhere,” said Sewa Ram, a volunteer who works at a charitable lodge in the port city of Rameshwaram.

“We are exploring methods to tighten the laws to stop counterfeit currency from being circulated. However, more than the law and order machinery’s vigil, availability of affordable equipment to detect fake currency is the need of the hour,” Kumar added.

According to official records, 50.6 million domestic tourists and 1.7 foreign tourists visited Tamil Nadu in 2007.

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