It is just the proverbial hiccup, they say- but when hiccups are repetitive, it is a sign of acid reflux, my dear sir.
Edited from the original post on 13 Nov, 2016. It was written in haste and anger.
It has been just a week since you’ve discarded the 500 and 1000 Rupee notes and yet there only ominous signs for this country. I am sure you thought of everything before taking this decision but when you throw in something from the top in a nightmare system that is India, you will not be able to control all its outcomes.
Now we are right back to interfacing with institutions by compulsion. I had only heard of such lines, long hours and shortages in an era gone by. But then instead of taking evasive action or acknowledging the impact, every instance is being dismissed by your supporters as being an outlier case.
My plea is going to deal with the impact and impact alone because, Mr. PM, you are the government and the government is you.
#HICCUP 1, YOU’VE MADE UNACCOUNTED WEALTH, BLACK MONEY AND CASH SAVINGS THE SAME
People save differently. Some prefer to save in cash and some don’t. It is a personal choice. For those who do save in cash they they are on morally uncertain ground. The distinction between the three types of cash has ceased to exist. In a stratified society such as ours, you’ve suddenly made a personal choice, a public issue.
Social standing, reputations and perceptions are more important in Indian society than the truth. Now one has to deposit money compulsorily, and for those who saved in cash, it doesn’t take long to become the talk of the town. In an economy where 90% of the employment is in the informal and self-employed space, this will be a reality for many. In any case, morality has been an age old tool to establish social power and dominance, and it will not be long before a new dynamic emerges based on the distinction of who had cash and who didn’t. It wouldn’t matter if it was black or just legit cash.
#HICCUP 2, YOU’VE SOLD A LOVELY YARN OF A BILLION RUPEES LYING AROUND UNACCOUNTED
You’ve really got the burgeoning, salaried middle class in a state of per-orgasm. Morally, the salaried middle class now feels it has a one up on their salary paying, business owning masters. We dream that we shall sleep on cash filled mattresses like they do and have now convinced ourselves that there exists such a thing. You’ve just given us, the salaried middle class a validation of our fantasies.
But we forget, the rich have one very strong weapon: money. They buy services to convert their ill-gotten wealth/ undeclared income. Remember the Panama Papers scandal (moneyed class convert their cash to assets or park it in foreign banks)?
The poor, the labour, the white collars amidst several other classifications take measures to save that bit extra and you are selling us the idea that those with tons of it don’t have the same idea or inclination? Who do you think the fool is? But then that answer is clear for we are the fools who have lapped this idea up.
You know what is going to happen- the money in the market which was playing around would be sucked in banks and you can then champion the fact that you’ve single handily have gotten that wealth within the banks. But all you’ve done is just gotten the money available in the economy into the banks.
#HICCUP 3, YOU’VE PUSHED THE STATE OF NORMAL INTO FAR-FAR AWAY LAND
Let me start with the larger picture since you are all about larger good. The state of normal I talk of is liquidity (cash available in the market). Don’t think of urban cities (I hope you’ve travelled) but think of a village and upwards. It will be years before the present level of liquidity achieved. Please don’t ask us to PayTM as a solution. It is not possible everywhere, if you didn’t know. Thus, we have to now deposit our money and then withdraw it in a piecemeal manner. It is assumed that it will all be smooth but everyone does not stay near a bank, stay in a city or have the luxury of time to carry out this exercise. But greater good, greater good!!!
You’ve assured the nation yesterday that it is only a matter of 50 days. I have no doubts of your intentions but I am presuming you will delegate this work to the Great Indian System which is not known for its efficiency.It took over half a century for the Indian currency to spread far and wide. As a result, whether I am cycling in Ladakh or motor biking in South India, I can whip out money and I will get a service and will get change in return. Now, I am not so sure that will be the case even in the next 6 months.
Let us take an instance. There is a tea seller anywhere between your city and the next city. She rarely goes to the bank. She uses the same money she earns to return change to customers. She goes to the neighbors’ shop to get change if she does not have enough change. Now the customer won’t pay and if he does pay he won’t take old money as change and the neighbour does not have new money yet or will not part with it. She is stuck. Care should have been taken for such cases. These are not outlier cases. This is the dominant discourse in our country. These cases cannot survive 50 days.
#HICCUP 4, YOU’VE PUT US BACK IN LICENSE RAJ
Although temporarily, you’ve put us back in license raj.
I know of friends and family who have gotten cash exchanged through the back door and then at 6 PM instead of 8 PM the bank informs the queue that the cash has run out. Obviously, it has. It was me, my politician friend, the businessman friend of the manager, the relative of the cashier who have taken it before the person in the queue because the queue does not apply to our class and above. Can you imagine what must be the case in non-urban areas where power is much more rudimentary and violent and the powerful cast the non-powerful aside and get first preference? Can you arrest that social situation?
Scarcity brings out the vultures. And this artificial scarcity has brought them out in droves. There is a vulture personality to all of us and this time it is going to get a free meal . My maid has been paid in 500s and 1000s and now wants to buy ration as usual for Rs. 200 but she will have to spend Rs. 500, otherwise she won’t get any change back. Then there are some traders who take a surcharge on the 500 as a cost of taking the ‘illegal’ note. How do I stop him? Technically, he isn’t wrong. Effectively you’ve put us at the discretion of the trader.
So you expect us, in addition to the time spent, to initiate complaints and prove them? But then how would that happen? You’ve also slowly but steadily dismantled the civil society spirit and declared them as an enemy of the state. Now you want individuals to raise the flag- those individuals who struggle for daily existence? Or you want me or the elite of the country to raise the flag? Because we won’t, for most of us it will all be just fine!
#HICCUP 5, YOU’VE WASTED MY TIME. WHY WERE YOU NOT READY?
So for the greater good, I am going to have to make trips upon trips to the banks and post office, stand in line, and battle institutional apathy because obviously you, Mr. PM, cannot stand in on every dispute. There are banks in the middle of the capital which are not adhering to the work-time set by you! Can you pull them up? What can you do if a rural bank or a village bank does not operate properly? Will you even get to know?
I have now two 2,000 rupee notes. Thank you for that and the amazing time I had while standing in line .
So many rumours abound and so many instructions given; couldn’t you have made it simpler, faster and easier? Everybody is struggling for a common goal but not a commonly agreed process.
#HICCUP 6, YOU’VE KILLED THE UNORGANIZED SECTOR
90% of our business, trade and economy is unorganized which means that they cannot transact business until some normalcy is restored. By the time everyone manages to withdraw Rs. 2500 a day successfully (dream on) by your calculation it will be done tomorrow perhaps, but by my instinct it will take years.
People cannot earn. People cannot do business. For those with deep pockets they will tide through but for those who don’t, you would be responsible.
#HICCUP 7, ..AND YOU WON’T EVEN KNOW WHO DID IT
Now let’s suppose X has tons of cash lying around, (there won’t be as I analysed above) X will probably not deposit it in the bank as X would incur a 200% tax penalty . Sure, the money goes back to the government treasury (I hope it is not literally burnt, for the sake of the air we breathe) but you will never know who are the ones who are milking the system. I do not know what you could do for that. But then again, I do not have to. You have the resources to come up with something, I am sure.
The source of such wealth cannot be wished away. Those who make black money, are going to be at it again. A new cycle will begin soon or has already begin. This is a one-time reset. Please make the best use of it.
#HICCUP 8, YOU’VE WON THE BATTLE OF ELECTIONS BUT YOU PERHAPS HAVE LOST THE WAR
Maybe this was a super move to outwit your rivals but in either case but you’ve also encumbered everyday life. Perhaps, your rivals in these states will lose. You will win or you won’t. But the impact of this is going to stay in the minds of those who struggled. You may show at the end of December that a large amount of money has come into the system (which is only liquidity in the markets), but none would be the wiser because most of see only what we want to see and believe. Some of us will see through it and you will make your proxies call us enemy of the state. I was somewhat with you till here. But we diverge from here on until you can do something which will veer through my cynicism.
As I write this I just received a video of you drawing any analogy about a child being denied sweets by his mother and as a result of which the child is creating a ruckus. So effectively, you are calling me an insolent child. But then I never wanted the sweet. Allow me to extend the analogy, in order to deny some child who identity is not known (the black moneyed),you’ve put the entire country on a fast. Thank you for that. Much needed in a rich, fat and spoiled country like ours!
It is illusion that the inconvenience will be for a short while with regard to normalcy. Of course, your party members do not have cash at all for any elections or they very well took care before the move was made. How do we know they weren’t in on it?
I was sitting on the fence with your government because I cannot suffer fools. But I cannot suffer arrogance and foolishness even more. You know why we decided on a parliamentary democracy as a means to govern? Because we’d rather be slow and not take decisions than take irreversible decisions. Imaginably, you must have a coterie of ‘yes-sirs’ around you who wouldn’t have given you critical inputs. How could they? It is the greater good.