Archive for the ‘demonetisation’ Category


The other day, I was in the bank queue and standing behind me was a gentleman from Bihar, so we got chatting and he said “Bahut kathin hain, Modi jo koshish kar rahein” (It is very difficult, what Modiji is trying to achieve). I asked him to explain, and he said he had returned from his village in Bihar where no one wants Narendra Modi’s anti-corruption drive to succeed because they are happy with the corrupt way of life.

When you hear such things you know Narendra Modi is facing an impossible, nay herculean task, in ending corruption. His own party is neck-deep in it. It is ingrained in the system and some people don’t want to get rid of it. They will fight it to their last breath because for them, it’s a question of their very existence.

The Bihari gent said that in his village, dozens of fictitious Jan Dhan accounts have been opened by crooked bank officials in which money is being credited and withdrawn every month by nameless persons. The account holders, thekedars and bank officials take a cut and everyone is happy. Why should they want to change a system that fetches such returns without an honest day’s work?

When I told him about the cash being recovered from all over the country, he laughed. He said that schemes such as MNREGA were the biggest financial scams in independent India and even Mr Modi with all his good intentions can do nothing, because the rot has gone too deep.  And this is happening in Nitish Kumar’s Bihar, when he is backing the campaign against black money.

Like me, he too was despondent. “Chor hain sab. Is desh ka kabhi bhala nahin hoga.” (They are all thieves. The country will never improve).

The day before on Twitter I had an argument on the very subject with a journalist who said I could not base my example on one instance. Well, here’s another.

I am no economist, but as a middle-class Indian I see around me the willingness to change but there are three other groups of people who are fighting change. The first is the corrupt lot for whom demonetisation has been an avoidable disaster, and if they can’t save their money they definitely don’t want a system which won’t let them make anymore. Look at the way the bankers and lawyers have circumvented the system to issue trunks full of new currencies to all kinds of dubious people, while the common Indian frets and fumes in a queue.

The second lot is the so-called ‘left-liberals’, who share a visceral hatred for Modi. Irrespective of what he or anyone from his government proposes, they will close their eyes and oppose it. The gates are closed for any debate on the issue, and if there is one, it’s a monologue in which they are right, and everyone else is wrong.

For example. I hear people on TV channels trotting out the most bizarre reasons for not going digital. Some of the more absurd reasons I’ve heard by idiots in the garb of journalists, on why poor people can’t open bank accounts is, that poor people haven’t been inside a bank. Haven’t they been inside a post office or dak ghar as it is called in the villages? In a village in Uttar Pradesh, one man says no one in government told him he could open a bank account. In the past so many years if no one in government told villagers that they could open accounts even in post offices, who is to blame? If there are so few banks in villages, then who is to take the blame?

Then there is the absolutely bizarre justification from people against demonetisation. It would make me laugh if it weren’t so tragic. They will say that daily wagers have been the worst-hit because the small factory owner has been forced to shut down. Why the “small factory owner” was running a cash-and-carry business for decades, is something none of them have cared to ask that guy. And it’s not like he just started it. He’s been doing it for years and his father before him. Has he tried to open accounts for his workers in these last 30 days to solve their problem? No he hasn’t. He has preferred to shut down instead. It’s pretty obvious why.

Just go to some of the busy chowks in a city like Pune on any given day. Among the milling crowds are dozens of labourers. They aren’t all waiting for public transport. They, men, and women with babies, are waiting for a contractor to land up there and pick them out like cattle to herd them into a truck and take them to a construction site. Here they will work in the blazing sun and at the end of the day, they will get paid for a day’s work, from which they have to pay the contractor. You can guess what they end up with after paying that. That is, of course, not a concern of journalists churning out reports about the negative impacts of demonetisation. That’s not the angle they’re looking for in that story.

And finally, there is a fourth group – journalists – who are happy sitting in their air conditioned offices churning out stories from twitter feeds and Facebook updates and calling them ‘exclusives’. I remember joking years ago that some journalists could turn a press release into a byline story, but I never realised it would get so bad! They’ve gotten so used to sucking up to ministers and drinking subsidised booze at the Press Club that they’ve forgotten their primary responsibility – to question those in power, and keep questioning them, until they answer.

Not one journalist is asking this simple question of the politicians in and out of power – What was your party doing all these years?” Not one journalist is throwing up facts and figures in the faces of these politicians and asking them to explain the discrepancies. Some of the politicians have become millionaires and billionaires in five years. Not one journalist asks them how they made so much without any legal source of income, except their MP’s salaries. That is left to the analysts and opinion writers, who very few read anyway. So after a few hours of being stonewalled by the politicians, the journalists go back to the Press Club and order another drink, and move on to their next desktop exclusive.

I am sorry for being such a cynic, but I completely understand what the Bihari gentleman meant when he said, “Chor hain sab….”

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Frankly, I am getting tired of people droning on about standing in bank queues and the time they have to waste, and all the wonderful or terrible people they meet. What the fuck were you doing when there were no ATMs? Did God come down on Earth to dole out cash to you? I think one of the biggest crimes any government committed in the last 70 years was the launching of ATMs. It made us lazy, it made us impatient, and most of all it made us forget the pain of standing in queues.

In the last three weeks I have been reading about people allegedly dropping dead in bank queues because they’ve forgotten what it was like to stand in a queue. And I use the world ‘allegedly’ deliberately. I am sure there are genuine cases too, and it’s sad, but I am sure by the time things are back to normal the number of deaths will come down to single digits, and many of those too, this sexed up media will realise, were unrelated to standing in a queue. Maybe, we should shut down ATMs every few months to let people live a more realistic life of the 1970s and 1980s where they stood in bank queues that sometimes stretched to the street outside. I know there are problems. It is a mind-boggling exercise which could not have been done any other way. There have been problems many un-anticipated. I am sure, in hindsight, even the government realises the process could have been better planned. I am sure villagers are the hardest hit, but to make it a doomsday scenario is stretching the truth a lot. And in this one has to blame sections of the media who are deliberately misreporting to create a panic. If the villagers are having problems the state and district administration should approach the centre and make arrangements to disburse funds. The problem is when bankers, government officials and politicians are themselves are corrupt, who do you trust? I know of labourers who have bank accounts opened in their name all of a sudden, with funds being deposited in them. Since when did one need to deposit Rs 50,000 in a savings bank account, when one can maintain a zero balance?

And I’ll be honest, my family too felt the sudden shortage of cash with banks running short, and wondering how we spend the old denominations. Fortunately, all three of use debit cards and wire transfers. Maybe it’s called being smart. I also connected to Paytm and have never been more relieved, because I have to carry even less cash around now.  I too had problems with my account in a co-operative bank. I waited for the problem to ease, and when it didn’t because they were giving only Rs 2,000, I wired money from there into the nationalised bank account I have and withdrew Rs 20,000. We cut down our expenses, saved enough last month to ensure we could pay the maids on December 1. So stop cribbing so much, and move on. I did.

I also know that the entire country cannot go cashless and neither is the government forcing you to. But can those who want to, do so, instead of having to read planted reports by a subjective media demonising the plan? Indians are so gullible that they believe anything and that is what the media is hoping it can achieve in its efforts to ensure this plan fails. This country is littered with stories of idiotic Indians falling for a con. Look at the way people fall for the dumbest trick around – the spam mail telling you that you have won millions of dollars. Or someone claiming to be from a bank asking for your ATM card and pin. The fact that the government has to release commercials on TV channels telling people not to fall for it should tell us what a bunch of idiots we are.

Which brings me to this whole engineered controversy about demonetisation being a waste of time, money and energy, because black money will not go away. It is bizarre. No, black money won’t go away. If it did, we would all be living in Utopia. Let’s face it, a thief will remain a thief. He will find new ways to break the law. Years ago, when we moved to Gurgaon, I went to buy a lock. I told the shopkeeper I wanted a big lock for the front door and he smiled and said “Taala sharifon ke liye hota hain, choron ke liye nahin” (Locks are meant for the honest (to tell them you’re not home), not for thieves). I mean, the police put up traffic lights, road dividers and lanes, in the hope that we will follow traffic rules. But some people think they are above the law. We can only make laws tougher. And it’s not like all the people who had black money got away. We are reading about sacks full of money being discovered and the arrest of bank officials who have been helping the unscrupulous change their currency.

As for the opposition politicians who are protesting the loudest, it’s obvious they’ve been hit the hardest. Now that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stolen their ideas, reinvented them to suit his party, and put paid to their plans, they are hell-bent on getting rid of him. That is why people like Rahul Gandhi, Lalu Yadav, Mulayam Singh, Arvind Kejriwal, and now Mamata Banerjee, are indulging in hysterics. In which country did you hear of a state being taken over by the army, when there is a civilian government at the centre in power? You have to be a complete imbecile to come up with such an absurd fantasy. Rahul Gandhi accuses Modi of TRP politics, conveniently forgetting that he too was doing just that with his khat sabhas and the farce of standing in a bank queue to withdraw Rs 4,000. Doesn’t he know there is a bank and an ATM in Parliament House? Oh, but how would he, he is hardly there.

If this is the way Rahul, Kejriwal, Mamata and the rest intend to push forward their candidacy to replace Modi in 2019, then Modi can be sure of another two terms as prime minister. Also, we don’t need comedy shows on TV channels anymore, these political stand-up comics will do just fine as replacements.

As a tax payer I am happy even if 2 per cent of the crooks in this country are nailed. I would consider it worth every minute I spend in a bank queue.