CHENNAI, India, 19 November 2016
To the surprise of his countrymen, on 8 November 2016 Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi suddenly announced demonetisation of Rs 500/- and Rs 1000/- high-value currency notes.
Anxiety that was caused
This unexpected move immediately resulted in considerable confusion and anxiety amongst the people, as they have never undergone such an experience in the past. Immediately after the announcement at 8pm in the evening, crowds started queuing in front of 0.2 million ATMs all over India. However, the ATMs had to be closed as the old currency had to be removed before replacing with the new ones. Further, the ATMS have to be calibrated to meet the requirement of new notes.
As the banks were closed the next day, and the ATMS too remained closed, there was panic all around. Some people even started suspecting whether all their money would be lost.
Mr Modi explained to the people through television media that demonetisation was necessary to wipe away the black money and fake currency circulating in the country and eliminate the corruption once and for all.
Many people really thought that this exercise would be completed in three to four days and that normalcy would return. But things have not gone back to normal even after eight days, though the situation has been gradually improving.
Mr Modi and his Finance Minister and officials have been reassuring citizens repeatedly that the situation would become normal soon, and have appealed to the people to put up with the discomfort for a few days for the sake of ensuring a corruption-free India.
Overall favourable reaction of common people
The common people, in spite of some reservations as to why they were made to suffer when they are not the black money holders, seem to have reacted more favourably, appreciating the need for eliminating black money and punishing the corrupt persons.
As a matter of fact, people belonging to lower- and middle-income group, who have been suffering enormously due to the prevalence of corruption at all levels of government machinery, and even in educational institutions and hospitals, had been hoping that Mr Modi would put down the generation of black money and ensure elimination of corruption with great force. Mr. Modi’s demonetisation campaign and his explanation about the need for it have largely received a positive response from the people.
Vicious campaign of vested interests
However, the opposition political parties, who seem to have pledged hatred towards Mr. Modi, called his demonetisation strategy ill-conceived, lacking in clarity and forward planning, and a
costly exercise that India cannot afford.
With 20 percent of the money in circulation in the country being black money, and most of it being with politicians and business houses and traders, it is no surprise to see the manner in which the opposition parties have denounced Mr Modi’s demonetisation drive.
While the government announced several restrictive measures to ensure that the black money could not be converted into white, the black money holders have tried to circumvent the regulatory measures of the government in a variety of ways, which forced the government to impose even more restrictions. Though such restrictions were aimed at black money holders, common citizens suffered in the process.
Exploiting the situation, attempts are being made to kill the initiatives of the government by whipping up public anger against the move with clever propaganda by the vested interests, which seem to have been considerably supported by the print and television media. Day after day, debates have been taking place and photographs of the people standing in long queues have been publicized with mischievous headlines and sidelines.
Understanding the mood of the people, opposition parties and vested interests have been saying that they support the move to eliminate black money, but not the strategy adopted by the Modi government that has resulted in sufferings to the people. Obviously, their aim is to weaken
the resolve of the Modi government to put down black money, as the politicians and the business houses and traders would be the worst affected.
Some media and politicians have been irresponsibly stating that civic unrest would take place in India and law and order would become unmanageable due to the so-called public anger of the people.
Mr Modi’s resolve will take him through
As Mr Modi has now taken a decision to fight against the black money holders and cannot look back, the Modi government is now facing a great challenge. The government cannot afford to allow a situation to develop where the demonetisation drive would end half-way, or fail to
yield the type of positive results that are targeted.
The opposition politicians and the black money holders are likely to become increasingly aggressive and use a variety of methods through media to spread an impression amongst the people that the Modi government has failed.
As Mr Modi is now taking an aggressive stand, fear is haunting the black money holders that he will not spare them and the law will take its course soon.
In spite of such stress, Mr Modi appears to be determined to take the fight against black money to the logical end at any cost. While meeting the need to implement his strategies competently with a well-designed process, Mr Modi has to take the people along with him even as the
opposition parties and vested interests would strive their level best to derail the demonetisation drive.
Mr Modi is bound to succeed in his efforts as the cause is genuine and people want his efforts to eliminate black money and corruption to succeed. While the demonetisation drive reflects Mr Modi’s commitment to the cause, his strength of character and determination will take him
About the author
NS Venkataraman is a chemical engineer as well as a social activist in Chennai, India. He is the founder trustee of Nandini Voice For The Deprived, a Chennai-based not-for-profit organisation serving the cause of the deprived and down-trodden and working for probity in public life.
More articles by NS Venkataraman on Tibet Sun.