The Reserve Bank of India performs various traditional central banking functions as well as undertakes different promotional and developmental measures to meet the dynamic requirements of the country.

The broad objectives of the Reserve Bank are:

(a) Regulating the issue of currency in India;

(b) keeping the foreign exchange reserves of the country;


(c) establishing the monetary stability in the country; and

(d) developing the financial structure of the country on sound lines consistent with the national socio-economic objectives and policies. Main functions of the Reserve Bank are described below:

1. Note Issue:

The Reserve Bank has the monopoly of note issue in the country. It has the sole right to issue currency notes of all denominations except one-rupee notes. One-rupee notes are issued by the Ministry of Finance of the Government of India. The Reserve Bank acts as the only source of legal tender because even the one-rupee notes are circulated through it. The Reserve Bank has a separate Issue Department, which is entrusted with the job of issuing currency notes. The Reserve Bank has adopted minimum reserve system of note issue. Since 1957, it maintains gold and foreign exchange reserves of Rs. 200 crore, of which at least Rs. 115 crore should be in gold.

2. Banker to Government:

The Reserve Bank acts as the banker, agent and adviser to Government of India:


(a) It maintains and operates government deposits,

(b) It collects and makes payments on behalf of the government,

(c) It helps the government to float new loans and manages the public debt,

(d) It sells for the Central Government treasury bills of 91 days duration,


(e) It makes ‘Ways and Means’ advances to the Central and State Governments for periods not exceeding three months,

(f) It provides development finance to the government for carrying out five year plans,

(g) It undertakes foreign exchange transactions on behalf of the Central Government,

(h) It acts as the agent of the Government of India in the latter’s dealings with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and other international financial institutions, (i) It advises the government on all financial matters such as loan operations, investments, agricultural and industrial finance, banking, planning, economic development, etc.

3. Banker’s Bank:

The Reserve Bank acts as the banker’s bank in the following respects:


(a) Every Bank is under the statutory obligation to keep a certain minimum of cash reserves with the Reserve Bank. The purpose of these reserves is to enable the Reserve Bank to extend financial assistance to the scheduled banks in times of emergency and thus to act as the lender of the last resort. According to the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, all scheduled banks are required to maintain with the Reserve Bank minimum cash reserves of 5% of their demand liabilities and 2% of their time liabilities. The Reserve Bank (Amendment) Act, 1956 empowered the Reserve Bank to raise the cash reserve ratio to 20% in the case of demand deposits and to 8% in case of time deposits. Due to the difficulty of classifying deposits into demand and time categories, the amendment to the Banking Regulation Act in September 1972 changed the provision of reserves to 3% of aggregate deposit liabilities, which can be raised to 15% if the Reserve Bank considers it necessary,

(b) The Reserve Bank provide financial assistance to the scheduled banks by discounting their eligible bilk and through loans and advances against approved securities,

(c) Under the Banking Regulation Act,1949 and its various amendments, the Reserve Bank has been given extensive powers of supervision and control over the banking system. These regulatory powers relate to the licensing of banks and their branch expansion; liquidity of assets of the banks; management and methods of working of the banks; amalgamation, reconstruction and liquidation of banks; inspection of banks; etc.

4. Custodian of Exchange Reserves:

The Reserve Bank is the custodian of India’s foreign exchange reserves. It maintains and stabilises the external value of the rupee, administers exchange controls and other restrictions imposed by the government, and manages the foreign exchange reserves. Initially, the stability of exchange rate was maintained through selling and purchasing sterling at fixed rates. But after India became a member of the international Monetary Fund (IMF) in 1947, the rupee was delinked with sterling and became a multilaterally convertible currency. Therefore the Reserve Bank now sells and buys foreign currencies, and not sterling alone, in order to achieve the objective of exchange stability. The Reserve Bank fixes the selling and buying rates of foreign currencies. All Indian remittances to foreign countries and foreign remittances to India are made through the Reserve Bank.

5. Controller of Credit:

As the central bank of the country, the Reserve Bank undertakes the responsibility of controlling credit in order to ensure internal price stability and promote economic growth. Through this function, the Reserve Bank attempts to achieve price stability in the country and avoids inflationary and deflationary tendencies in the country. Price stability is essential for economic development. The Reserve Bank regulates the money supply in accordance with the changing requirements of the economy. The Reserve Bank makes extensive use of various quantitative and qualitative techniques to effectively control and regulate credit in the country.

6. Ordinary Banking Functions:

The Reserve Bank also performs various ordinary banking functions:

(a), It accepts deposits from the central government, state governments and even private individuals without interest,

(b) It buys, sells and rediscounts the bills of exchange and promissory notes of the scheduled banks without restrictions,


(c) It grants loans and advances to the central government, state governments, local authorities, scheduled banks and state cooperative banks, repayable within 90 days,

(d) It buys and sells securities of the Government of India and foreign securities,

(e) It buys from and sells to the scheduled banks foreign exchange for a minimum amount of Rs. 1 lakh,

(f) It can borrow from any scheduled bank in India or from any foreign bank,

(g) It can open an account in the World Bank or in some foreign central bank.

(h) It accepts valuables, securities, etc., for keeping them in safe custody.

(i) It buys and sells gold and silver.

7. Miscellaneous Functions:

In addition to central banking and ordinary banking functions, the Reserve Bank performs the following miscellaneous functions:

(a) Banker’s Training College has been set up to extend training facilities to supervisory staff of commercial banks. Arrangements have been made to impart training lo the cooperative personnel,

(b) The Reserve Bank collects and publishes statistical information relating to banking, finance, credit, currency, agricultural and industrial production, etc. It also publishes the results of various studies and review of economic situation of the country in its monthly bulletins and periodicals.

8. Forbidden Business:

Being the central bank of the country, the Reserve Bank:

(a) Should not compete with member banks and

(b) should keep its assets in liquid form to meet any situation of economic crisis.

Therefore, the Reserve Bank has been forbidden to do certain types of business:

(a) It can neither participate in, nor directly provide financial assistance to any business, trade or industry,

(b) It can neither buy its own shares not those of other banks or commercial and industrial undertakings,

(c) It cannot grant unsecured loans and advances,

(d) It cannot give loans against mortgage security,

(e) It cannot give interest on deposits.

(f) It cannot draw or accept bills not payable on demand,

(g) It cannot purchase immovable property except for its own offices.

9. Promotional and Developmental Functions:

Besides the traditional central banking functions, the Reserve Bank also performs a variety of promotional and developmental functions:

(a) By encouraging the commercial banks to expand their branches in the semi-urban and rural areas, the Reserve Bank helps (i) to reduce the dependence of the people in these areas on the defective unorganised sector of indigenous bankers and money lenders, and (ii) to develop the banking habits of the people

(b) By establishing the Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Reserve Bank helps to develop the banking system of the country, instills confidence of the depositors and avoids bank failures,

(c) Through the institutions like Unit Trust of India, the (Reserve Bank helps to mobilise savings in the country,

(d) Since its inception, the Reserve Bank has been mating efforts to promote institutional agricultural credit by developing cooperative credit institutions.

(e) The Reserve Bank also helps to promote the process of industrialisation in the country by setting up specialised institutions for industrial finance,

(f) it also undertakes measures for developing bill market in the country.