Akbar called for Birbal to come to him urgently. “What’s the matter, sire,” asked the minister. “I’m tired of being cheated. I want to make people pay,” said Akbar.
“What do you mean, sire? Who is it that you refer to?”
“All the people playing fast and loose with our money. Our enemies, external and internal. You know our scheming neighbours have created fake gold and silver coins which those knaves are using to wage war against me. The markets are flooded with them. They’re so well made that even I can’t tell they’re fake. Last week, I went to buy a monogrammed outfit for my upcoming trip to the Far East, but the shopkeeper refused to take my gold coins saying they were tainted. The emperor’s money tainted! And that’s not all. Our own people are playing up too. You know the chieftain on our left is hoarding coins for the Hunger Games show that’s coming up. I’m told he plans to use them to pay people to support him and repel us. And it’s not just him. Rich folks around the country, especially those who talk of high-faluting things like integrity and social justice, are also refusing to pay tax and secreting away coins. At this rate, the kingdom will soon be broke. How will I live, eat and, most importantly, travel?
“What exactly do you want me to do, sire?”
“I want you to end this menace and teach a lesson to our enemies, internal and external.”
“But won’t that turn the people against you?”
“I don’t care. I want you to declare all silver and gold coins null and void. That will send everyone in this coin-based economy for a toss.”
“But how will people eat? What will happen to the poor?”
“They have their copper coins. And get the rich people to deposit their gold and silver coins with the local daroga. That way we will know exactly who has how many coins, and we can melt all the metal and create wealth for ourselves.”
“But what about the people with genuine savings?”
“Do you have any?”
“Then what’s your problem? People will manage. And yes, also announce that we plan to soon release a mega gold coin with my picture on it to help people buy expensive things.”
“But won’t people start hoarding that too? Unless…”
“What’s your idea, Birbal?”
“Let’s release the big coin now itself, sire. Let’s also start two rumours; one that the coin has a secret mark that only we know about and can track. The second will suggest that we will scrap the big coin, and maybe even the copper one, next year. We’ll deny the rumours of course, but half-heartedly. That will keep people jumpy and too scared to hoard. And the neighbours won’t waste their money on replicating anything.”
“Excellent. Go start the process, Birbal. But before you scrap the old gold, please go with 10 lakh coins and buy me a new suit for my upcoming trip.”