I had a 6am train the day after the demonetisation move was announced by Mr Modi at 8pm on November 8. I had just taken out cash for a trip into interior Rajasthan, which the ATM had given me in Rs 1,000 and 500 notes. Even though the notes could be exchanged for two days I knew the panic would mean people won’t accept my cash.
I spent the whole night fretting and cursing him alternately – why am I paying for the corrupt in this country? But this is not about me.
Next day, the Jaipur exit toll was not accepting the high-value notes, and everyone wasted precious time just sitting in mile-long queues.
There have been enough rants about long queues but I couldn’t help thinking: what if someone’s father was in the hospital on the other end, dying? What if she had just landed in Jaipur, say from Chicago, rushing to her dying father, and missed being with him in the last moment... will complaining about that be anti-national? Who decided for her that that price is worth paying for the country?
|So many victims of domestic abuse or bullying, where the mother-in-law or husband questions every penny spent by the woman, must have stowed away cash like this. Credit:Bloomberg
At home, surprisingly, my grandmother turned out to have the most cash. We are the kind of household where, if anyone suddenly needs more than 2,000-3,000 bucks, we have to pool in and count the pennies, because everyone hates going to the ATM and we pay all our bills online.
So, for dadi to have cash was unusual, or so we thought. Apparently she always had it stashed away. She felt more secure having some cash handy but my mum wouldn’t listen to her, so she hid it from her – and now, she stood exposed; her security blanket ripped off. Who gave the government the right to expose an 84-year-old woman this way?
Now my grandma is just fine, but so many victims of domestic abuse or bullying, where the mother in law or husband questions every penny spent by the woman, must have stowed away cash like this.
Not only do they not have the money any more, they also have to deal with the wrath of their husbands and parents in law. Even if ONE such woman gets beaten up and is robbed off her meagre spending power – is that collateral damage justified for the country’s sake?
Is my country worth this sacrifice? Will this move result in anything concrete – and I mean literally too, will we get better roads, better hospital care? — will the thousands of crores being flushed into the economy result in empowering that woman whom we so casually just left utterly vulnerable?
On the train at 6 am, the babus in my compartment were already discussing ways around the rule and how everyone knew this was going to happen suddenly – the only thing no one knew was the exact date. One guy said into the phone: “Hann sir, kya tod nikala?”
This was just 10 hours after the announcement.
In the village I visited, a lot of people live on the money they earn daily. In two days, there was no food in their homes. A wedding party had no mutton to feed their guests because there was no money to buy meat in the market – trade had almost stopped.
Is it okay to spoil the wedding festivities of people who painstakingly save their whole lives for that one day – that one night where they can marry off their son or daughter with great pride and show? Is that collateral damage acceptable?
In my own country, I was reduced to buying money with my own hard-earned, tax-paid, legal money – the ATMs were empty and large parts of this country is cash-only. Is that collateral damage justified? The auto guys, the shops, the malls, have no custom during wedding season, their highest earning time, is that okay?
People are making old people stand in queues to get cash quicker, people are fainting in queues, people are fighting for cash, being reduced to an uncivilised graceless mess on the roads… is all of this a price well paid?
Forget the foreign and domestic travellers who were stranded across the country because of this move, people say, forget the long queues, the short-term suffering, and focus on the greater good. I am not sure who gets to decide what another citizen should sacrifice, and what they should forget, but I am quite sure that after all this collective suffering, there will be no greater good.
I am willing to bet all my 2,000 rupee notes that a few months down the line everyone will forget the suffering, nothing would have changed in our lives for the better, and the BJP would have won the UP elections.