Narendra Modi government’s 50-day window to exchange old Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes ends today. If you are honest and still believe that the end of December 30 would lead to a return of pre-November 8, 2016 days, then hold on, brace yourself.
It is now clear that demonetisation is only one of the many steps towards the grand goal Modi government has set for itself. In an interview to India Today on Thursday, PM Modi himself warned, “You must understand we took the decision on demonetisation not for some short-term windfall gain, but for a long-term structural transformation.”
Brimming with confidence after passing the critical 50-days without much “collateral damage”, as the government wants everyone to believe, PM Modi explained the objective of demonetisation with a new perspective — to clean the Indian economy and society of the “menace of black money, purging the distrust, artificial pressures and other ills” that accompany it.
Union Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu took demonetisation objective even a step further on Thursday. He likened demonetisation with a “Swachh (clean) Economy” campaign, on the lines of “Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan” launched by the Modi government in 2014.
“The mandate for the Government was for a Clean India encompassing all aspects of mind, surroundings, economy, governance and public life,” he said at the National Media Centre in New Delhi.
To those exposed to the perils of history, the very idea of a “Swachh Economy” campaign would appear scary — much like Mao’s exploits in China or those of Lenin and Stalin in Russia in the 20th century. Naidu warned,”Government would not rest till the last rupee of black money was accounted for and removed from the system.” PM Modi has said this himself on a number of occasions since November 8. But, should you worry?
Cleansing of Indian economy sounds like “ethnic cleansing” of a different dimension. For 70 years, scores of Indians have championed “jugaad”, “short-cuts” and “tax-theft” in economic life. When the opposition parties say that all people, who were forced to stand in serpentine queues to access their own “hard-earned” money after November 8, were honest, they espouse a monumental lie, that has so far fueled the election economy and, hence, democracy in the country.
कभी सोचा नहीं था कि राजनीतिक स्वार्थ के लिए कुछ लोग हिम्मत के साथ बेईमानों के साथ भी खड़े हो जाएंगे। pic.twitter.com/1hVmckfk7Y
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 22, 2016
Yes, all are not honest, accept it. With demonetisation, Modi government aims to force all citizens to become honest in economic life. When the BJP would start such cleansing campaign from its own house, however, is shrouded in mystery — may be today, may be tomorrow, may be never.
To say that the extent of demonetisation has been massive would be an understatement. “Unprecedented” sounds better as no country has ever tried to demonetise 86% of its total currency notes in circulation in one go. PM Modi acknowledges this. And he said it rightly to India Today, “This decision (demonetisation) is so huge that even our best economists remain confused in their calculations.”
Until today, many people have been eagerly waiting for the end of the 50-day window. But the real challenge would begin from tomorrow as it is highly unlikely that banks would be replenished with the same amount of currency notes as they used to dispense earlier.
The government doesn’t intend to print the same amount of notes as earlier, hence the focus on “less-cash” economy. Printing same amount of money as past would defeat the very purpose for which Modi government took to demonetisation. This leaves cash-dependent citizens, including merchants, consumers and labourers, with only two options — either quickly adopt digital means of payments for their own convenience or perish slowly as offerings in the demonetisation “yajna.”
PM Modi said on Thursday that India stands “on the cusp of actualising its inherent potential as a developed nation”. But no country has become developed without the silent mutiny of the uninitiated. Will the citizens put India first or struggle hard to return to the old ways? History would provide the answer in future. For now, the ‘dangal’ has just begun, days after Bollywood star Aamir Khan struck gold at the Box Office with it.