What money goes around, comes around. Does it, though?
Demonetisation. The one and only subject of discussion these days—by default also an ice breaker among us commoners standing in queues outside banks and ATMs. Each one of us has an opinion on it and we are gladly exchanging notes (pun intended, of course). Frankly, being a novice in macroeconomics, I could not figure out how this was going to directly impact consumers across India. To get some clarity, I spoke to people who I interacted with on everyday basis. While none of them could influence my own opinion, they certainly helped me understand the cash economy that mobilises the grassroots.
Radio taxi driver: “This is a marvellous move. In one go, the government has cleared the country of corruption. Those big guys who were driving around in luxury cars, spending billions in weddings, have all been hit hard. I am really happy about it. Yes, I am facing some trouble as commuters are less, daily earnings are less, and I am not being able to buy daily groceries. But this will become alright within a few days.”
Housemaid: “People are saying it is a good move. The rich people’s arrogance will get a reality check. And the country will become rich. As for myself, I admit I am somewhat worried since all the money that I had been keeping in a canister (hidden away from her alcoholic husband) will be exposed. Moreover, I do not have a bank account and will have to stand in queue several times (miss a few days’ wages in the process) to get the notes exchanged.”
An acquaintance (MD of a corporate group): “…it is an abrupt decision. Imagine living in a country where just 5 to 7 supposedly intelligent men (not all chosen/elected by the people) form a team and do an overnight hara-kiri. Their propaganda machinery gets to work and manufactures a generalised opinion (as governments are known to do during wartime), and almost every individual starts believing what those 5 to 7 men wanted them to believe in the first place. The way I look at it, the country’s system has failed and we are paying the price for it. The legal, planned, organised and ‘right’ ways of keeping a check on black money and terror money have failed. Wasn’t the country already spending billions on vigilance departments, CBI, IT officials, economic offences wings, and so on? I and some of my friends have a lot of cash. It is hard-earned white money. Now I will have to stand in a long queue at a bank for which I am a privileged customer, and prepare myself to face IT queries despite being an honest taxpayer for years.”
Cook (a migrant from West Bengal): “I managed to get my Aadhaar last year – without that it would have been very difficult to exchange the notes that I have been saving for years. I will have to go to the bank several times to exchange all my notes. I wish I had a bank account. My husband says the bad businessmen will be caught and the government will become rich. But when I ask him how much money will he gain out of it and how will it make our lives better, he has no reply.”
The ‘ hardship’ period will be no more than 50 days, the government has promised. So, let’s wait and watch and carry on with our small talk at the queues – there is little else one can do. Padma Editor