In wake of the demonetization of Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 notes, the media is full of stories about ‘common man’ getting inconvenienced for cash. There are genuine cases of medical emergencies (despite the government allowing old tender to be used in hospitals and chemists) and inconveniences to senior citizens. There have also been cases about people in rural areas suffering due to lack of valid tender. All of these are real issues of people facing hardship, but with the steps being taken to reduce waiting time in queues, availability of new tender and inking to ensure unique users, it is hoped that the issues will get resolved soon.
It is obvious that the political fraternity will oppose the move – Kejriwal was voted to power on the promise of eradicating corruption, but he instead defends all the corrupt AAP ministers; Mayawati is reaching out to the left parties for joining hands in defending their ill-gotten money; and Rahul Gandhi is forced to go in his Rolls Royce to withdraw Rs. 4000! It is not expected that they will praise or support the move. However it is very amusing and ironical to see the reactions of many other constituencies to the demonetization.
- At the onset are the Modi-baiters. They have to criticize the PM irrespective of what he does. Given that state of the current economy, there is no logical reason to oppose this move. However they are opposing it basis two arguments – the common man is inconvenienced (Please can someone tell me - who is this common man for whom our collective heart bleeds at infrequent intervals? When we skip queues and pay bribes to agents for getting our work done faster- aren’t we being unfair to the common man ourselves?). The other argument is that black money hoarders would have invested in gold and benami land and the current step does not address that. Sure, the current move is only focused on liquid cash but the PM is not duty bound to announce all his plans in advance to the country. That would be counter-productive. Even if this move addresses only 30% of the black money problem, it is a step in the right direction and has to be lauded.
- The second constituency is the Cash-lovers. People are complaining that many shops, wedding planners, caterers etc. are not accepting cheques or cashless payments. Given that this is the wedding season, the inconvenience has been manifold for those who have celebrations planned. However, haven’t the cash-lovers been part of the problem themselves? When we choose to pay in cash and do not take the receipt, we do so knowing that we are helping the trader avoid sales tax. A parallel economy grew in India because of all our collective preference to pay in cash to avoid paying taxes. Had we not done so, maybe there would not have been so much unaccounted for cash in the system. We corrupted the system. If we were part of the problem, it is only fair to expect that we also be part of the solution.
- The third constituency is the Entitled People. These people will stand overnight in queues to get tickets for an IPL match, will stand in scorching sun to get a first day ticket for a Rajnikant movie, will be willing to take leave from work to go to multiple schools for ensuring their kid’s admission. However it is too much to expect them to stand for 2 hours in an orderly queue to manage their cash. They are complaining about having to return ‘cash on delivery’ orders! CoD orders are not emergency supplies and if one has to wait for a few more days, it should not be a matter of life and death.
Instead we should ask, what gives us Indians such a heightened sense of entitlement? Sure, we are standing in queue to get our own money, but isn’t India our own country? We voted Modi to power because we wanted change from the systemic corruption that had pervaded all spheres of public life. He is not a magician who can reverse decades of rot overnight. Demonetization or any other big move will fail if the people don’t support it. Instead of being indignant at the thought of skipping work to withdraw money, let us think back to the days when our country was being looted – Commonwealth Scams, 2G and 3G scams, Coal block Scams. A few days of hardship is preferable than the continuation of the old ways of working.
- The last consistency is the Intellectuals. The dictionary defines an intellectual as ‘a person possessing a highly developed intellect or academic mental capacity’. As per the dictionary meaning, the author would qualify to be called an intellectual. However since the author supports the demonetization move, she would be called a Modi bhakt or a capitalist (she works for a living and does not expect the state to take care of her, unlike Shri Kanahiya Kumar of JNU fame). The intellectuals include Nayantara Sehgal (Rahul Gandhi’s aunt) and Anand Patwardhan (who along with Nayantara Sehgal led the vicious so-called Award Wapsi campaign). This lot will say and do anything to try and ensure that the old order continues and Modi’s attempts to forge a new India fails. All those who support the demonetization would be painted as capitalist, anti-poor by these ‘intellectuals’ who wear expensive khadi, holiday abroad and have benefitted from the earlier regimes.
Thankfully, a new India is emerging where Indians have hope and are willing to be part of the change process. Nothing illustrates this better than what a carpenter standing in the bank queue ahead of the author said “Madamji, aaj ki kamai nahi hogi. Lekin theek hai…itne saal se ham log garibi mein jee rahein hai. Pradhan Mantri ne bada rupiya band kiya hai, achha kiya. Is se bank mein paisa aayega aur jab bank mein paisa aayega, desh badega. Desh badega, toh hum bhi toh badegein”.
(Translation: Madam, I missed work and won’t get paid today, but it is ok. We have lived in poverty all our lives. It is good that the PM has banned high value notes. The money will now flow into the banks, and when money comes into banks, India will progress. When India progresses, so will I.”
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Aditi Kumaria Hingu is a marketing graduate from IIM Calcutta, currently she works in the corporate sector. She comes from an army background.