Who’s afraid of demonetization?
Crusade against black money or the voiceless masses?
Two, three things, which we all only feared and speculated about are now becoming crystal clear about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much hyped exercise banning the Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes in the country and introducing his new bills of same value.
We were only speculating that the exercise would affect the rural and even urban poor. The migrant labour with no ready proof of identity and all his/her savings in cash mostly in Rs 500 and 1000 currency notes, would find it next to impossible to exchange these old notes and thus is returning home dejected and bankrupt having incurred irreparable losses. The latest war cry of this Sanghi Modi establishment is that the poor from remote areas of Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand and Maharashtra who are trudging miles to reach some bank far, far away from their homes and sleeping outside banks in the open on cold wintery nights, are proxies for the Maoists. Result: instead of getting new notes in exchange for their hard earned savings, they are being made to run for cover lest they be caught as Naxals or their agents and fall into the vicious police dragnet to be put behind bars.
As it is, one visit to any branch even in the national capital and NCR suburbs will show the stark difference between the treatment meted out by the bank staff to well off educated upper middle class customer contrast with the shooing away disdainfully of the poor uneducated shabbily dressed daily wagers with no bank accounts, some even without any proof of identity, standing in long queues for days on end to exchange old 500 and 1000 rupee notes worth only a couple of thousands.
So it is obvious by now that the voiceless poor, both urban and rural, always bearing the brunt of all such adventures, will lose all that they have. In addition, with the factories, shops, other business establishments, Agricultural markets and even farmers under tremendous pressure due to cash crunch, reluctant to offer any employment, are pushing steadily this deprived section of our people towards starvation. Anybody witnessing the current desperation and helplessness of the poor today would be reminded of John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” because something akin to the great depression of 1930s in the US is currently being played out in our country.
Curiously in this theatre of absurd, those appreciating Modi’s move almost invariably belong to the Aryavrat and those complaining and protesting are the unwashed masses. In recent past the most attractive investment has been in property market. As a matter of fact this process started in Delhi in the 1960s and the biggest beneficiaries of this have been the upwardly mobile middle class, booking DDA flats, selling them at a high premium, often times soon after their allotment letters came and making a neat pile more than half of which in cash, which is black money and then applying yet again for the next round of DDA lot. Speculating in the property market and making short term investments there has been the main financial activity of this class till now. This is the class which along with the Sangh and our dear Prime Minister is crying hurrah, Buck up Modi. I can safely speculate that each one of them has or had earned black income during their long rise from living in shabby small government quarters to moving into posh South Delhi addresses.
But apart from the rural poor even the not so poor farmer in distant rural areas, are facing a crunch because they have their accounts in the nearby cooperative banks and the Reserve Bank of India has forbidden these institutions from disbursing the new currency against old notes. So all such persons too have to go to the closest urban centres, stand in queues and often return empty handed because all of us know it does make some difference when you go to your bank where the staff recognizes you. At least it does not push you out calling out next when your turn comes and there is some small discrepancy because of incomplete form or some such small mistake. He would allow you to make the correction and accept your pay in slip patiently. But not to an outsider. So by denying the facility in the rural cooperative banks the Modi administration is consciously ensuring that the facility of exchanging old notes for new remains confined only to a small section of India’s population whereas with 500 and 1000 notes comprising 86 per cent of the total currency in circulation almost the entire adult working population would be in possession of a few or even more of this banned currency.
So now we will have crores of people who would be unable to exchange their hard earned money and this currency when not returned to the banks will then be described by the Modis and Amit Shahs as black money and Modi will go to town about his so-called success.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has already said that the move has pumped in huge capital in the banks and has thus improved the financial status. Of course he won’t say this but this is a novel way Modi has adopted to cut the liabilities of the banks whose losses due to the non returning of the loans borrowed by top corporate houses had run into not several thousand but lakhs of crores. Now these banks will be flushed with funds again and having written off past non-performing assets from their books the banks can start literally with a clean slate. Now who would they lend their money to? The same defaulting corporate honchos because the process of loan recovery from any of us mortal beings is far more strict and menacing. Unlike Sahara Shree Subrat Roy and Vijay Mallaya, we would never be spared and allowed to laugh out of the bank.