Never before has a decision of the Government shown negative effect on people so early as the current move to demonetize.
A narrative has been built on its supposed benefits. The decision has been hailed by the supporters as a master stroke, a surgical strike which will end the reign of Black Money and establish the supremacy of White Money. It has been described as a bold act by an unquestionable authority whose decisions are for only collective benefit of the nation and these decisions can nothing else be but only correct. In this extreme faith all others have been just reduced to an audience who just need to look at the unquestionable authority who will take decisions for the benefit of all. Any questioning of this authority only means that they have vested interests in perpetuation and existence of the Black money economy.
A look at the current developments only breaks the narrative and shows the hollowness of the argument. The greater common good is only a good of the few. In this supposed crackdown on Black Economy, the Black money does not reach its dead end but continues to thrive and benefit one side of the political divide. High cost marriages worth Rs. 500 crores continues to get performed through usage of Black money as seen in case of Reddy’s. About Rs. 92 lakh worth Black money in the form of new Rs. 2,000 denominations get caught with the party claiming to be working towards ending Black money, Rs. 3 crore worth of Money gets deposited to Party Bank account in West Bengal in the form of old denomination notes just before the announcement. Many past and present Chief Ministers associated with party in power continue to be involved in cases associated with corruption as in the case of Yedurappa, Shiv Raj Chauhan and Raman Singh.
The decision of the government has brought the economy to a standstill. The sufferers of the decision continue to be the poorest that have no bank account – the workers in the Tea Plantations of Assam, garment workers dependent on wage labor in Tamil nadu, the street vendors who are completely dependent on cash transactions, the farmers who need credit for agricultural inputs and for carrying out agricultural operations, the construction workers in urban areas who need cash on a daily basis to meet their immediate needs, the vegetable vendors who need to dispose off their stock the same day. Many of the operations in Agriculture produce market committees (APMCs) have come to standstill affecting the farmers. All the poorer sections, the dalits, the adivasis, the women who are completely out of the cashless system in the country continue to face the havoc.
Human lives continue to get lost in this crackdown on Black Money. Lack of acceptance of old cash denominations has only resulted in deaths of common people. Instances of denial of treatment in the name of old denominations, deaths due to standing in long queue, suicides as rations could not be brought on money and money which could not be sent to the needy family members on time, heart attacks as marriages get cancelled are some of the emerging human stories.
The Government continues to describe this as a temporary inconvenience which has to be born by the citizens for the patriotic act. Parallels keep getting drawn with soldiers in Siachen who stand for long hours to protect the nation. However, in this patriotic act the rich and powerful hardly stand in long queue. Just like ordinary soldiers die in a war, so too in this case ordinary people lose their lives. This happens at a time when large loans of corporates like Kingfisher’s get written off. About Rs. 7,000 crore worth loans to 63 willful defaulters gets written off.
The move for demonetization gets welcomed by people named in the Panama papers, the Industry associations, the emerging companies with business interests in cashless transactions. The government does not clarify why a welcoming position by the least affected should form the narrative as common benefit of all. This is at a time when there is clear evidence emerging of the sufferings of large majority.
A 50 day time is sought to emerge out of the temporary inconvenience. It is being pointed out that banking operations need at-least 4-6 months to be restored back to normalcy. However the social and human costs of this period following demonetization could be disastrous. This is irrespective of the extreme faith being expressed on the new panacea for ending Black money namely Demonetization. While the weaknesses of this narrative have already started showing its weaknesses, it needs to be seen whether it could deliver what it promised out to do.
T. Navin works with an NGO as a Researcher. He did his M.Phil from Jawaharlal Nehru University