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Thursday, January 5, 2017

50 Days After Demonetisation

Team Being Cynical
Narendra Modi in an open rally asked the citizens to give him 50 days to fix all the problems that had cropped up after November 8th demonetisation of old 1000 and 500 rupee bills. Now that we are almost into the 60th day, it only assigns us the liberty to go over and see how far our PM has succeeded in keeping his words. It is even more interesting if we too can bundle up his claims of the benefits that one can expect in the long run out of this demonetisation activity. Never to forget the accusations and complains of the opposition and see how far their concerns and worries have turned out to be true. The poor, for whom we suddenly saw a surge in concerns from various quarters, mostly from the secular and liberal (or are they the same?) types, need also be revisited if we really want to have an overall picture of this bold move. So here we go.

One of the primary complain was the inconvenience that people had to face while trying to withdraw their own money. Agreed, it was inconvenience for all. No one can deny that people had to wait in queues in banks and ATMs (those which were by miracle dispensing cash at times) for long hours to carry out their banking transactions. But that was given when you suddenly take out 80% of the available cash from the market. Banks were running out of cash as the supply of required currency from RBI wasn’t matching the demand. The delay in rolling out new 500 rupee bill came out as the weak link. Change in dimensions of the new currency also didn’t help the cause. Each one of the ATM machines had to be recalibrated to dispense new notes. All these arguments and counter arguments are agreed but has the situation improved as promised by our PM?

The other day I was in Mumbai. In the ‘Hind Mata Cloth Market’ I found a functional SBI ATM with only two people in the queue. Since it was January 1st I could able to withdraw Rs 4500/- . What interesting here is the denominations that I got from the ATM. It was equally distributed, much like how ATMs dispense. I got a single 2000 rupee bill with four 500 bills and five 100 bills. And this is not an exception. Almost all the ATMs in Mumbai I found to be working with no or minimal queue. Same is the case in Pune as well. Almost all ATMs are working now. I don’t see long queues either. I am also hearing similar feedback from other places too. It mostly appears to be normal in urban and semi urban areas except may be Tirupathi where one of my friend claims the situation to be as horrible as it was 50 days back. Though I would love to gulp down his claims with a kilo of salt, I would still prefer a second opinion from someone native to that place. I am sure my friend would be caught with his 'Pants with no innerwear inside' down.

Now let’s see how is the situation in villages, which hold lot of interest for our liberals. As per the liberals, the ATMs in villages are still not operational and poor villagers are still suffering. Now, I don’t know why it makes me laugh like a maniac. It makes me laugh because I don’t know which village they are referring. I seldom see people in villages going to an ATM to do their banking. In fact, according to the finance ministry data, about 70% villages don’t have any ATMs to begin with. SBI, which has a major share in our rural branches made another interesting revelation. Even before demonetisation, the rural ATMs used to get a refill once in a fortnight as per the guidelines because the demand for ATM usage is dismal. As records would suggest, it is only 30% of the ATM money that gets dispensed in average in rural areas. Since 2009 SBI in fact is running a rural program with little or no success to educate villagers to avail the ATM facility as it is fast, secure and round the clock. So which villagers these liberals found suffering because of non-functional ATMs? Yesterday I asked an agitating liberal, if she could let me know the village name where she found a lot of suffering just because the lone SBI ATM was non-functional. As expected the outraging liberal was silent with her response. Making a point is one thing but to behave as if none other than the liberals who know how a village in India looks like is quite another. Claiming the existence of hardship in urban areas because of closed down ATMs can still be accepted but percolating the same rubbish to our villages where people still believe in their passbook style banking is little rich.

Second biggest abrasion among the liberals is the limit that RBI has issued on daily and weekly withdrawals. As it stands today, one can withdraw Rs 4500/- per day from the ATMS and Rs 24000/- per week at the maximum from the banks. If you ask, that is a lot of money for an average you, me and Haroon Bhai. You don’t believe? Just look at your monthly expenses of last quarter or maybe six months. Even Rahul Gandhi would agree with me that 24K is a good amount. After all he not only managed to survive for 50 days with the Rs 4000/- that he withdrew from the Parliament Street ATM but also could book the air tickets and hotels for his new year bash in London. Now since the great RG is on my side, the question here to the liberals – where is the difficulty with this limit? 24K per week spells as 96K per month, which again calculates itself to 11 lakh per year. And as per out Income Tax records, In India there are only 24 lakh people who have income above 10 lakhs. That 24 lakh would even shrink further if we filter out those who earn more than 11 lakhs per year. So in a country of billion plus populace only 20 odd lakh people suffering, even if they are, is a national tragedy? No wonder why I feel vindicated about me calling these liberals as mindless whiners. But then, a single Dadri made our entire nation intolerant for our liberals and here we are talking about the possible hardship of 20 lakh plus people. That said, I can see the liberal logic here. I agree to the reason why these liberals are fuming. After all, their eternal love for the last suffering human on this planet, not just India, is not only legendary but also a proven sentiment and we must show adequate respect here.

Going back to the promise of our PM and his subsequent claims of curbing black money and terrorism through demonetisation. I must say, one must analyse the points one by one.

First let’s tackle the black money part. Looking at the amount that got deposited, it hardly appears that any black money was left unattended. After all 95% of the old currency getting into banking system makes one ask – where is the black money? But before we ask, let’s take a pause and ponder, what about the remaining 5%? A simple mathematics would tell you, 5 % of our total demonetised currency is still a huge, huge amount, though not to the tune that we claim to have stashed in black. Then there are desperate souls like Mayawati, who being out of any option, have actually deposited huge amounts in various accounts. Many bankers too have been caught in soliciting with fraudsters in getting their black money through. Today, even the driver of Mulayam was found to have hundreds of crores in his account. Many ‘Jan-Dhan’ accounts were also being misused by corrupt syndicates. All these are getting to the public discourse gradually and I am sure many such dubious transactions will see the light of the day in due course. I am told, lakhs of ‘Jan-Dhan’ account are already been frozen by the government pending inquiry. Before we come to know, how much black money has been pushed through out of desperation, it is futile making an argument, for or against, on the 95% figure alone. There is a big possibility that a lot of the black money that is already deposited in our banks would ultimately be taken away by the government after investigation. We only can guess. At this stage it is little premature to debate on these RBI numbers alone. Another vital point is, the numbers also suggest that a large amount of black money could also have been invested in real-estate. But that is a given in any corrupt society. That is precisely why I argued in one of my earlier posts that there can’t be one single step to arrest corruption in India. There has to be multiple measures for this to achieve. As Modi himself suggested, unaccounted and wrongful property is his next target. Demonetisation actually was the first of the many steps that this government is planning to take.

On taking terrorism to its back foot claim of our PM – well, it appears little exaggerated at this point at least. That said the stone pelters in Kashmir suddenly vanished from the scene within two days of demonetisation. Though the rascals are nothing lesser than the terrorists, purists (read liberals) may disagree with us calling them outright terrorists. As it is they mostly are sons and daughters of school headmasters. Barring these peace loving stone pelters, there isn’t much proof to substantiate PM’s this particular claim. We even found new 2000 bills with couple of terrorists who were wrongfully murdered by our security forces. And keep it in mind; the said incident happened when most of us were wasting at least an hour in queue to get hold of a single 2000 rupee note. Currencies’ reaching the terrorists before we could lay our hands on them is worrisome and it certainly needs an extensive investigation. We might as well find another noble school headmaster behind this skilful currency management. Talking about cross-border infiltration, well, it hasn’t gone down much. But then, why the ‘Fidayeen’ would require much cash? Their job is to infiltrate and ambush the target before our ever lethargic intelligence springs into action. It is the terror sleeper cells that require money to survive and plot. It is the Huriyaat type outfits that would require money to fund the stone pelters. If anything, the pelters are gone and we can safely assume the hawks in Huriyaat are struggling for fund. As about the sleeper sells, we need a detailed report, if at all we can get one, to conclude either way. But as of today, PM’s this particular claim holds minimal water and isn’t convincing me much either.

I am told PM’s 31st December speech to the nation has caused major heartburn among liberals. But for the rest of us, who are communal as per the same liberals, I hope the New Year eve was enjoyable. 

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