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Demonetisation: Discomfort for the rich, misery for the poor

By Shutapa Paul
Updated on :

The demonetisation drive has definitely shaken up the nation from its stupor. It’s a bother for the rich and affluent. Does it dent their black money? Perhaps. But they have found ways to circumvent the demonetisation by finding newer ways to turn their black money to white. Armed with political connections, wealthy jeweler friends, and real estate honchos, India’s rich have found a way out of this temporary discomfort.

If their cash can’t become white, they can always pay penalties and retain some of their money. If they don’t want to come under the taxman’s radar, crores and crores of currency will be burnt, only their charred remains signaling the hoarding of black money. It’s but a minor irritant to the cash-rich Indian. And it’s the nation’s poor who are the biggest losers.

It’s heartbreaking to hear instances of people dying of shock unaware that their money is still very much theirs. Incidents of ration shops being looted, buses being vandalized and angry crowds mouthing choicest of expletives for the powers that be, only point to the utter desolation felt by the country’s poor and downtrodden. The middle class housewife who doesn’t have money for groceries or the domestic maid who has no milk to feed her child only shows the complete mismanagement and lack of foresight of the government to bring about this economic surgical strike.

Agreed that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes had to be weeded out of the system in order to curb black money and clamp down on fake Indian currency notes (FICN). If Pakistan’s ISI has pumped in Rs 5,000 crore into India as terror money, then we definitely have a larger issue at hand. But as much as the decision has to be seen in the greater public good, the ‘aam aadmi’ has his own ‘roti, kapda, makaan’ issues.

The government has the right to work in the country’s best interests, no matter how unpopular the decision. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has the mandate to thrust difficult decisions onto the nation at the cost of losing his popularity (PM Modi has lost over 4 lakh Twitter followers since demonetisation). But to not plan and think of the nation’s poor, is unacceptable from the government of a so-called welfare state.

Since the demonetisation had to be a sudden one, one can appreciate the timing of it. But if the citizens are being inconvenienced, shouldn’t the government take a bit of the hit too? Why wasn’t public transport made free for the general public? Why hasn’t the government engaged agencies to distribute free food? Why isn’t the government machinery actively running an awareness campaign in cities, towns and villagers assuring the people that they won’t lose the money? Communicating through television news channels and social media only reach a fraction of the population, most of who use plastic money and are educated enough to understand the currency ban. But the old woman who died outside the bank, or the one who committed suicide when she couldn’t marry off her daughter, or the child who died when an injection couldn’t be given on time for want of money. These are but a few measures but for the neglected sections of society, this would come as a boon.

And a special message to all politicians sans party lines: Instead of raving and ranting against demonetization, move your derrière and help your constituency’s poor and needy. Give them free food; organize ‘langar’-style food camps for a few days, distribute medicines, visit hospitals and help the ones who need it the most. And chief ministers (such as Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal), you will have all the time in the world to Modi-bash, why don’t you help the people in your state first?


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