Narendra Modi's surprise "strike" on black money has thrown Indians into a tragic chaos, with the ban on Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes taking innocent lives in just the unprecedented way it was brought into force. The demonetisation drive may be touted as a masterstroke, but scenes from an India flying into panic leave no doubt that hapless citizens are paying for Modi government's lack of preparedness, with heart attacks, riot and even their newborn child.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley said on November 12 that Modi government had anticipated that a large-scale currency replacement would not be possible, and asked Indians to be "patient".
North India is facing one of its worst air pollution spells in decades, escalating India's healthcare crisis. The post-Diwali period also marks the beginning of the wedding season as well as the winter vacation across India. If the Modi government planned the biggest currency cleanup knowing full well what was at stake for citizens, why has its execution proved life-threatening?
Tragedy unfolds across India in the scramble for currency:
1. On November 11, Kiran and Jagadish Sharma lost their day-old son at Mumbai's Govandi after a doctor refused to treat their child, a premature baby, as the couple wanted to pay part of her fee in the now-invalid Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. The doctor refused to give the couple even an hour's time to pay for the newborn's treatment.
|Kiran, the child's mother, delivered her baby a day after Modi's announcement.|
2. On November 11, 73-year-old Vishwanath Varthak died of a heart attack while waiting outside an SBI ATM in Mumbai's Mulund. Varthak, a senior citizen, stood in a serpentine queue for 10 minutes to get notes exchanged for valid currency.
3. On November 12, father of a bride-to-be in Bihar dies of a heart attack after he failed to exchange his savings for new notes. The elderly man lost his life after the hospital he was rushed to refused to accept the high-value notes for treatment.
4. On November 12, a severely handicapped senior citizen recounts how a hospital refused to accept high-value notes from him as a deposit for his operation. The ailing, elderly man who uses a walker to support himself was made to stand in queue for two-three hours as there was no separate line for senior citizens.
5. On November 12, Delhi Police gets nearly 4,500 calls for help till 6 PM after cash-strapped people stranded in queues outside banks and ATMs resorted to violence in parts of the capital.
At IDBI bank's Subzi Mandi branch in Delhi, stones were pelted at the staff and property damaged.
A scuffle broke out at a mall near Seelampur Metro station, allegedly over salt shortage. Delhi Police however denied the riot had anything to do with the cash chaos.
Serpentine queues outside ATMs may have become the norm in the country, and this viral video from Surat speaks for the bizarre trend:
More than 2.2 lakh ATMs have not been recalibrated to dispense cash - this essentially means they don't have the software to process the new high-value notes of Rs 500 and Rs 2,000. Banks are using soiled notes of Rs 100 to meet the cash crisis.
The Opposition has vowed to raise the surprise cash cleanup in the Lok Sabha's winter session. Is this a surgical strike or economic emergency for India's desperate millions?