What money goes around, comes around. Does it, though?

Consumer Voice - - Editor's Voice -

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

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