Mumbai — When the rest of the world rings in the New Year, India’s central bank will be grappling with a unique situation: how to deal with more than 23-billion worthless bank notes. Stacked one on top of the other, the pile would be 300 times the height of Mount Everest. Laid down to form a pathway, it would be long enough to reach the moon and back five times. Prime Minister Narendra Modi invalidated the bills in a single move announced on November 8, sucking out 86% of the nation’s currency in circulation and giving citizens until December 30 to exchange them for fresh notes. Described as the world’s most sweeping currency policy change in decades, the step has earned the government both admiration for its boldness and criticism for its execution. The Reserve Bank of India spends more than $400m on currency production each year, about 1.5% of the global bank note industry. Most of the junked notes would be destroyed and dumped in landfills following the usual process used with so...

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