The move by PM Narendra Modi on Tuesday of taking Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes out of circulation took many by surprise. An organisation called Arthakranti, a word that translates as an economic revival. Based in Pune, the 16-year-old organisation had long been suggesting such a measure among various reforms, said its founder Anil Bokil. According to an Indian Express report, “it was among the ideas Bokil presented to Narendra Modi, then prime minister-designate, before the elections in 2014, said Bokil, who recalled that he had been allowed 10 minutes but “the meeting went for two hours”. Today, the website of Arthakranti names Modi among those who endorse its various proposals, besides Nitin Gadkari.”
Prof R S Deshpande, a former director of Institute for Social and Economic Change, too recalled Arthakranti’s proposal for withdrawal of high-denomination currencies and for “all high-value transaction to be made through banking system like cheque, DD, online, electronics’. “This Arthakranti proposal has been in circulation for a long time. Around 10 years ago during the tenure of the UPA, this proposal had come up in a pre-budget meeting of economists. I was a participant in the meeting. It was not taken seriously or the government did not have the political courage to implement it,” Prof Deshpande told Indian Express.
He added, however, “I am not sure if the present policy changes are just incidental in their similarities to the Arthakranti proposals that have been in circulation.” Although the ideological moorings of Arthakranti are not clear, Desphpande felt there are indications that it has right-of-centre leanings. Bokil said demonetisation of high-value currency was one of five proposals by Arthakranti. The others are withdrawal of the existing taxation system; transaction tax on every bank transaction; doing away with transaction tax on cash transactions; and a cap on cash transactions.
Bokil, a mechanical engineer, said the organisation came about when, in 1998, recession caused the loss of 8,000 industrial jobs in Aurangabad. Bokil sought to assess the problem and concluded that the main cause was the parallel economy that drains currencies from circulation. He discussed this with friends for days, said Yamaji Malkar a trustee of Arthakranti. “We consulted experts like chartered accountants and economists and started building a people’s movement around it,” he said.