Seven months after demonetisation, the controversies around it aren’t going away. Apart from the debate over whether it was desirable, the government did all manner of flip-flops—given that this was the first such exercise anywhere in the world, and so there was no playbook to go by, though, that may have been unavoidable. What was not was the time given for people to exchange their old notes, given the rush at banks. While the prime minister had first talked of people getting a longer period for the exchange, when the notification came out, it restricted this to December 30. This was later extended for NRIs or for those who were not in the country between November 8 and December 30.
At the time of demonetisation, many argued, the government had no right to snatch away people’s property. Since the government was not snatching away anyone’s property, the argument was invalid. But, when the window for exchange was limited, it was possible to argue that this is effectively what the government was doing. Indeed, the Supreme Court has invoked this very right to property in asking the government to open another window for people to make the exchange. Since the government is, in any case, tracking all those who deposit very high amounts of cash, especially if these are not in sync with their income profile, there is nothing wrong with accepting SC’s suggestion and leave this open to everyone—if the window is used to launder black money, it will be tracked in the same way that deposits made before December 30 were. Since this will mean more of the demonetised money will find its way into bank currency chests, it will also give the central bank one more reason to delay making public the figures of how much of the demonetised currency has come back!