HYDERABAD: What would you do if you had the power to print money? It might be hard to imagine, but there was a time in Hyderabad when rulers of the Asaf Jahi dynasty allowed private individuals to legally mint money — with permission of course. However, needless to say, the practice had to be abolished after rampant corruption crept in. Speaking at a seminar called ‘The Chalni Coins of Asaf Jahi era’, numismatist Deme Raja Reddy said, “From 1762 to 1857, rulers including Nizam Ali Khan and Nasiruddaula, permitted private contractors to issue rupee and silver coins.
These came to be known as Chalni coins. It is something that is unusual in Indian numismatics. As time passed, the rulers realised it was a disaster and hence the practice was abolished,” he added.
There were inherent problems in the designs of the coins which made them unpopular among citizens. “They were thick in fabric, smaller in size, crude in their calligraphy.”
The mint was a status of luxury and officials from the Nizam’s government patronised some. Reddy said, “Maharaja Chandu Lal, who served as the Prime Minister for Nawab Sikandar Jah used to own a private mint. He awarded himself a monthly pension of Hyderabad Rupee 30,000 per month when the monthly salary of government officials then was around Hyderabad Rupee 10.”
Such practices led to severe criticism of the government and the malpractice was even recorded local newspapers such as Madras Spectator and The Englishman. “This made Salar Jung I abolish the practice in 1857. Chalni coins were banned and many were melted. However, some coins are still available in the market.”