Thursday, March 23rd, 2023 05:15:40

Demonetisation: One is either for it or against it

Updated: December 16, 2016 12:20 pm

It was a real war, an offensive against the enemy within—corruption, black money and terror subsisting solely on black and hawala money —Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi unleashed on November 8. Those indulging in these nefarious activities with impunity for decades were caught unawares, left high and dry with no cover to shield their self from Modi’s carpet bombing.

The decision had a direct bearing on everybody in the country. It posed a direct question to one and all: Is it a right decision in the interest of the nation or against it? Unfortunately, without directly addressing this question a section of political parties and media started, regrettably, inadvertently or otherwise, to be appearing to stand on the side of the corrupt and black money hoarders. Political parties started spitting blood. They tried to create a façade of crying aloud for the poor. On the face of it, opposition seems to be opposing for opposition sake. It has failed to come out with presenting an alternative strategy to weed out black money. That only bares its real intentions and honesty of purpose.

On the other hand, the President Pranab Mukherjee and the likes of Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik, besides NDA CMs welcomed it.

Poor, according to Congress-led UPA norms, were those who spent on food less than Rs. 816 in rural areas and Rs. 1000 in urban areas per person per month. There is no unanimity on percentage of BPL population. It ranges between 37 to 65 percent. A Congress leader has said that demonetization of high value notes (Rs. 500 and 1,000) has seriously hurt the poor. In other words, it has not pinched the rich.

According to the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna (PMJDY) website, a little more than 127 million new bank accounts have been opened taking the number of households in the country with at least one individual bank account to 210.5 million. Only 23,000 were yet to be brought within its purview.

As of April 20, 2016 nearly 20 crore (220 million) accounts have been opened so far, with the total deposits amounting to a little over 36,700 crore rupees. Prime Minister Modi has said that Jan Dhan Yojna (JDY) was helping the “poor battle poverty” and that “our JDY experience” had “brought out the richness of the poor.”

The NDA government allowed each person to withdraw Rs. 2 to 24 thousand per person per week. If this amount is too meagre, as opposition is alleges, are they poor who cannot make two ends meet with this much money for a week?

To mitigate the hardship of the people, government allowed government hospitals, chemists, petrol pumps, airlines, government consumer stores, fair price shops, railways, government-run transport to accept 500 and 1000 old notes. The toll tax on national highways too stands suspended for the time being.

There is no bar on use of credit, debit cards and other payment gateways. Crores of people have availed themselves of this plastic currency to meet their day-today needs.

Yes, we had very long queues before ATMs and banks. But where, in India, do we have no queues, a letter writer pointed out — to purchase tickets for cinema, railway and bus travel, at dispensaries, hospitals, trade and book fairs, airports, and even before chemist and wine shops? Let Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal first do away with queues in Delhi government dispensaries and hospitals before raising a finger on queues before banks. Dozens of people have died in Delhi hospitals because of lack of timely medical treatment, consuming spurious wine and drugs.

It is no secret that many people made their employees and hired labour to stand in queue before banks to exchange currency for them. Thus these long lines made a good picture for the media because that was a proof that ‘common and poor people’ were the worst sufferers.

The stand of our politicians is irrational, to an extent funny. UP Chief Minister opined that black money helped the country come out of recession. West Bengal CM Mamta Bannerjee wants the decision to be scrapped. Delhi CM Kejriwal says prior notice should have been given to the people, read black money holders.

The opponents were self-contradicting. On the one hand, they alleged that demonetization was the brainchild of PM Modi and even his Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had no inkling of it. On the other, they said PM had leaked it to his party and close ones so that they could turn their black into white money.

They gloat over the fact that before PM went on air to announce the decision, he got this decision approved by the Cabinet and even informed the President. They forget that no decision of government is of a prime minister or chief minister or of an individual minister in-charge of a department. It is a collective decision of the cabinet which is collectively responsible to Parliament.

All matters raised in either of the two houses of parliament, as a rule, normal procedure and practice, are attended and replied by the minister in-charge. It is the prime minister’s prerogative or discretion to intervene or not. Whatever a minister states in parliament is the stand of the government with which the prime minister concurs. Freedom of expression does not mean just the freedom to express oneself but also the freedom not to speak. No one can infringe a prime minister’s freedom of expression to say or keep quiet on any issue when his minister in-charge is there to present government stand on the issue in the house.

Who are making noises about people’s hardships and harrassment? Those who imposed emergency; issued Guest Control Order restricting the number a person could entertain in marriages and other social functions; Gold Control Order; imposed rationing and inspector raj; put ceiling on urban property and rural lands; and what not. Did it not put the common people to inconvenience and harassment?

Every ill needs to be nipped in the bud. Every disease requires instant diagnosis and medication. A disease that can be eradicated and cured with a little medication, precaution and prevention in the initial stages grows into a cancer. By allowing black money, corruption and terror ruled the roost during the last 69 year our past rulers left the present rulers with no other option but to treat this cancer with radio therapy and a major operation. That is what exactly PM Modi did. It does involve inconvenience and pain. And that was unavoidable if the cancer had to be removed.

According to an opinion poll conducted by the Jagran group of newspapers and the Zee channel, 85 and 93 percent of the people, respectively, expressed happiness by the step taken by Modi government.

The results of Lok Sabha, Vidhan Sabha by-elections and Maharashtra municipal elections which went for polls after demonetization also go to indicate that the common man has welcomed the step.

As individuals, social activists and political parties we have either to fight corruption, black money and terror promoted by black and counterfeit currency or stand by it. No one can stand in between. The time has come to take a stand. Former US President George W. Bush said once: You are either with us or against us. Our political parties and media have to tell the people unequivocally with whom they stand. The so-called charge of harassment to the common man is a ruse and cannot hide their real intentions.

 by Amba Charan Vashishth

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