Demonetisation will re-establish the credibility of Indian State

The move shows the establishment’s implicit trust in the country’s common man that he will bear the short term pain for long term benefits.

 |  5-minute read |   31-12-2016
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Cynicism and scepticism have become integral elements of the Indian temperament with successive governments failing the citizen of the country with alarming regularity. Thus, remarks like “This country has no future” or “iss desh ka kuch nahi ho sakta” have emerged as the quintessential expression of outpouring against “dismal” state of affairs in this melting pot called India.

So when Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the most audacious attack yet against black money and shocked and awed the nation with demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on November 8, the move mostly received widespread support along with its share of naysayers. The average voter, who had chosen Modi with great gusto just 2.5 years back, believed that the PM was finally attacking the menace with a sledgehammer and fulfilling his key electoral promise.

However, nearly two months down the line, the initial euphoria and hope is once again being replaced by the classic Indian cynicism with the number of sceptics on the rise. Partly fuelled by the vicious campaign against demonetisation unleashed by a section of mainstream media that has mixed its hatred for Modi with liberal dose of pessimism, the wow over this unprecedented step is being replaced by why. The rumour mills too have been on an overdrive, spreading lies, magnifying the misery and blowing discomfort out of proportion. Even as serpentine queues have thinned and cash is more easily available, cynics are increasingly questioning merit of the humongous exercise and whether it will actually benefit the nation.

The reactions vary from one of sympathy (what can one individual do) to one of disgust (corruption is in our DNA) to sheer anger (the economy stands derailed). The government and the man himself are also mocked over the frequent tweaking and changes in rules governing this mega shakeup and move towards a less cash economy. One often hears disgruntled voices ask why wasn’t it executed better or accuse the PM of ignoring all “sane” advice and imposing his ill thought plan on a hapless nation or worse, label the PM as a megalomaniac. To top it, there are those who are just waiting for the PM’s self-imposed deadline of December 30 to expire and if there is even a hint of any queue outside any ATM or bank branch post that, they will gleefully say “I told you this is bound to fail.” In fact, such is the level of cynicism that schemes to beat the government and convert black money into legal wealth are being celebrated as ingenuity of the Indian mind.

demonetisation_123116110038.jpg Slowly, the wow over this unprecedented step is being replaced by why. [Photo: Reuters]

Alas, this cynicism and mindless opposition are absolutely misplaced. Such strong and decisive action against black money and corruption was long overdue. The problem of counterfeit currency was hurting our economy and scuttling its march to a higher a growth trajectory. While we have every right to criticize the PM and suggest 101 ways in hindsight that could have made the exercise less painful, we must also applaud the fact that finally we have a leader who has put national interest before myopic and petty political gains. There are crucial assembly elections in UP and Punjab in another 2-3 months but that did not deter the PM from taking this incredulous reform and risking his well earned political capital in the process. Demonetisation of this size has no parallel in the world and thus, rules have been frequently changed to respond to the dynamic and evolving situation.

When 85 per cent of the currency in circulation is sucked out in one single swipe, it is a reflection of the tenacity and gumption of the political leadership and not one of brinkmanship. It also shows the establishment’s implicit trust in the country’s common man that he will bear the short term pain for long term benefits. Beyond the screaming headlines denouncing demonetisation and playing to vested interests, the fact is that a silent majority has displayed steely resolve and faced the hardship with loads of grit and determination. Despite the high decibel campaign and fear mongering, Indians have been a disciplined lot and there has been no rioting. That said it is likely that this disruption may continue for the next 15-20 days till new currency completely replaces the Rs 1,000 and old Rs 500 notes and ATMs are fully replenished.

It is an all out war against black money and as foot soldiers we all must do our bit to destroy the evil. As PM Modi has indicated, more flanks will be opened in the coming days and avenues that generate black money will be plugged for good. For a nation that has been plagued by rampant corruption for decades, 50 or 100 days for the cleanup act do not matter. Whether rules are changed 20 times or 40 times does not matter. What matters is that every individual should earn his money in an honest and transparent manner while the government must get adequate resources to improve the lives of the poor so that we are a prosperous and just nation. For that, we must keep the faith and keep cynics at bay. The political history of India will judge demonetisation as one step which not only infused financial morality in all sections of society but also re-established the credibility of Indian state.

Also read - Demonetisation has made Rahul Gandhi come out looking better than Modi


Dr Devendra Kumar Dr Devendra Kumar

The writer is Director, Research and Development Initiative.

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