Post-Nov 8: We are living through interesting moments of life
It was on November 8 when people listened to the `historicâ€™ address of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the nation announcing the withdrawal of the Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes. Volumes of news print has been consumed by the never ending developments related to the announcement, the lines outside the ATMs and views from experts and people from all walks of life.
A few states even witnessed election to the Lok Sabha as well as Assembly constituencies. We were no better in understanding the public perception of the move by the Prime Minister as they actually did not throw up any hints about the subject.
Amid all the frenzied activity all round, the Modi government is going about as if it is business as usual. It has not been impacted by either the disruption of both houses of Parliament or vituperative speeches by leaders of the opposition on public platforms.
On December 5, M. Venkaiah Naidu, Union Minister of Urban Development, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, and Information and Broadcasting, wrote a longish article in The Hindu newspaper, asserting that the PMâ€™s announcement was aimed at eliminating black money and corruption, apart from dealing with the counterfeit currency industry. It has also given a God-sent opportunity for the digital economy
Indiaâ€™s economic landscape, in terms of everyday transactions, has been transformed, so to say, in one fell swoop. The life of every Indian, from a corporate CEO to a cobbler, has changed like never before ever since Prime Minister Modi has announced the trailblazing decision banning old currency notes of Rs. 500 and Rs.1,000 denomination.
â€œThe November 8 announcement was basically aimed at eliminating the twin menaces of black money and corruption, apart from dealing a death blow to Pakistanâ€™s terror-funding machine and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)-sponsored counterfeit currency industry. It has also given a god-sent opportunity for providing a huge thrust to the digital economy and reap a bouquet of benefits that would accrue from such an all-encompassing transformation the country is going to witness in the days and months to come. The positive cascading effect would give a major fillip to our formal economy and help improve the countryâ€™s GDP in the long runâ€, Mr. Naidu asserted.
The Minister maintained that the PM took this timely and path-breaking decision to prevent the shadow economy from causing any further damage to the country.
According to him, it was not a sudden decision. â€œMr. Modi took all the necessary precautions and alerted the nation about the likely stringent measures the government would be taking to unearth black money. Who should fear the consequences of such a historic decision? The answer is simple. Only those in possession of ill-gotten, unaccounted money in our country and those with sinister motives and evil designs across the border.â€
The Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi is convinced that Mr. Modi has got himself involved in difficulties by scoring a â€œself goalâ€. The patience of public, if it enhances may lead to social anarchy. He claimed the terrorism of BJP has increased.
Mr. Singhvi, in a news conference in Hyderabad recently, alleged that some BJP leaders had prior knowledge of demonetisation and for the same reason they purchased properties, gold and other assets since the last six months and sought probe into the issue through a Joint Parliamentary Committee or a sitting judge of Supreme Court.
According to him, common people have been displaying utmost restraint while standing in long queues at banks and ATMs to withdraw their money. He asked the Centre to take immediate steps to end the inconvenience being caused to the general public. Else, he warned of serious consequences if people lose their patience. He accused Prime Minister Modi of imposing undeclared ‘Financial Emergency’.
Dr. Singhvi said India’s 90% economy was based on cash and more than 80% people were not aware of cashless or online transactions. The Congress leader asked as to why the Prime Minister was skipping participation in debate on demonetisation in the Parliament. He demanded that Narendra Modi give a reply to the problems being faced by the people by making a statement in the Parliament.
Contrast these two with this December 1 office memorandum of the Ministry of Finance (Department of Expenditure) on encouraging usage of Debit Cards among Government employees.
It is in all three paragraphs. It reads, â€œIn the recent years advancements in banking technology, progress in mobile banking and innovative technologies to facilitate digital payments have enabled large number of small denomination transactions to be handled smoothly in electronic mode. The Government of India has taken policy decisions encouraging cashless/electronic transactions.
â€œIn its endeavour on moving towards electronic payments, Central Government Ministries/Departments have been crediting the salary and other payments for the majority of its employees electronically, direct into the designated bank accounts of the employees. Given the progress made in banking technology, it is assumed that each employee would be in possession of a Debit/ATM card linked to his/her bank account. Ensuring and encouraging government employees to maximise the usage of Debit cards for personal related transactions instead of cash would go a long way serving with the employees serving as â€˜ambassadorsâ€™ for the digital push and also motivate, encourage the general public in taking up the cause.
â€œAll Ministries/Departments are requested to encourage their employees to make use of Debit Cards for personal related transactions instead of cash Ministries/Departments should liaise with their accredited banks and set up special camps to facilitate obtaining of and ensure that all its employees are in possession of Debit Cards. Ministries/Departments may also issue similar advisories to their attached/subordinate offices, PSIâ€™s, Autonomous Bodies etc.
About the author: PCI Babai is a Delhi based practicing hack, a cynic to core.”