Kadak Chai Or Birbal Ki Khichadi? The Drawbacks Of Currency Demonetization

“To hunt crocodiles, the pond was dried. The crocodiles all survived, for they could live on land too. All the fish, however, died.”

If you think I’m referring to the current financial situation in the country, then you’re a 110% correct. What seemed to be a daring move on the part of the Prime Minister of India at 8 PM on 8th November, has claimed about fifteen lives since. While comparisons with Mohammad Bin Tughlaq might seem malicious, they definitely aren’t without cause. Even though removing the higher denomination notes has always been accepted as a method of curbing black money, the manner in which this policy was implemented was hasty and half baked. This is to say the least.

Let’s start with the initial announcement made on 8th November. Herein all notes of Rs 1000 and 500 were swiftly devalued for exchange, within a span of three hours. With the exception of exchange at petrol pumps, government hospitals and airports and railway stations kept open. All the notes with denomination higher than Rs. 100 were either to be exchanged at banks, or to be deposited into your accounts by 30th of December. The catch? You can only exchange Rs. 4000 (recently increased to 4500) in a week, essentially limiting your total exchange limit to Rs. 28000, taking into account the 50 day period.

Hence, you can either deposit your currency into your bank accounts and explain its source to the Income Tax department, or simply watch it turn into scraps of useless paper. Fair enough! but how about answering one, basic question. Since when does the Prime Minister have the authority to decide and introduce the monetary policies of the country? The Reserve Bank of India, which is India’s central bank, since 1934, is the only organization has the authority to decide the monetary policies of the country. This includes the denomination of legal tender in the country. What is the law backing this executive decision? Were there any amendments made to the RBI Act or the Income Tax Act? Was even an ordinance passed, as was the case in 1978? For a country which calls its parliament the sovereign, this move reeks of a one man show.

Also, If I am forced to deposit my lawfully earned money at a certain bank against my wishes which interferes with my freedom to buy the services I want to get,  then who is to take the responsibility for any urgencies I face all this while I am facing this cash crunch? Income Tax officials all over the country are in a fix, for nowhere does the IT Act provide for a 200 percent penalty on cash from a raid.

For all of you who are going to reason with various arguments like “ we are ready to give up our rights for the betterment of the country” or “ when people can stand in lines for Roadies auditions and Jio sim, why cant we do the same for our country” or the favourite “ think of all the jawans standing at the borders,” PLEASE STOP. Standing in lines for Roadies and Jio was by choice, not by necessity. Your standing in a line for four hours does NOT benefit the jawans at the borders. Blanket statements declaring patriotism will not increase the GDP of the country. That’s a parameter that has already been destined to fall.

When daily wage earners stand in queues throughout the day, they lose out on the Rs. 400 they could have earned that day. Once again, this is the population which is fortunate enough to have bank accounts. For those rural poor who do not have bank accounts, getting their currency exchanged is the only way out. And we have already discussed the ease of that process.

Banks, even when they work 14 hour shifts seven days a week, are not equipped to deal with a population of 1.3 billion. When ATMs in the capital run out of cash within two hours and are only operational for a total of four hours in a day, one shudders to think how the smaller cities must be coping.

Another brilliant stroke by our PM is the Rs. 2000 note. Shining bright just like the country’s future. However, if the very purpose of removing the higher denominations was to combat hoarding of money, how does a note for Rs. 2000 solve this problem? Will those, who hoarded notes of Rs. 1000 earlier, not hoard the Rs. 2000 notes? (There is no chip, people. Calm down!) Thus, even if you were somehow successful in besting the rest of the population and getting your money exchanged, your problems have only begun my friend. For now you must beg people for change for that shiny bright pink note.

All scepticism aside, even if one does want to accept the change, the total failure of management at the banks (especially the government ones) is heartbreaking. With private hospitals refusing to accept the 1000 and 500 notes we are in a fix.

When asked, Mr. Jaitley calmly replied that those who can deposit cash at hospitals can also go to banks. Once deposited, said cash can be issued via cheques to the privates hospitals. Makes perfect sense, sir. How does it even matter if my child is dying? I must stand in line and await my turn, for I am patriotic. Even then, bank officials casually sneaking in their friends and family past the queues is a common sight.

Meanwhile Yatendar Rao, a leader for BJP from Haryana posed with a stack of Rs. 2000 notes even before the policy was announced. On the other side Bellary Reddy, an ex BJP leader builds “a palace” for his daughter’s Rs. 500 crore wedding. Was Kejriwal correct then? One is forced to wonder. Were a few near and dear ones of the PM privy to this knowledge?

Reliance launching free internet all over the country till 31st December and then earning returns in white money from 1st January, definitely seems to good to be a coincidence. Add to the that the recent replacement of Mr. Raghu Ram Rajan, one of the most educated and qualified governors of the RBI by Mr. Urjit Patel , who happens, once again coincidentally, to be Mukesh Ambanis’s brother in law, and there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. There is certainly a fly in the soup.

And so, even though the common man wants to whole heartedly support this apparently well- meaning step of the PM, he falls into the chasm between intention and implementation.

This kadak chai reeks of burnt economic dictatorship.

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