THE Demonetisation move has inflicted enormous pain on the common people, and with an acute shortage of new notes to replace the scrapped currency, the cash-dependent sections of the population, virtually 9 out of every 10, are suffering from a debilitating cash crunch.

And with every passing day it is becoming clear that the cash crunch is just the gateway to a much bigger and graver economic crisis hitting production and employment, and hence income and mass consumption across the board. The government initially talked about momentary inconvenience for a few days, but the pain is now threatening to become chronic and the damage permanent and irreparable.

The original stated purpose of the note ban exercise – neutralizing black money and counterfeit currency – now seems to be only an excuse. The government itself has offered to launder black money at just 5 per cent higher rate than the income disclosure scheme earlier on offer. People like Mahesh Shah who declared a black income of Rs 13800 crore, openly saying that the money belonged to politicians and businessmen, are being let off and the declarations dismissedwithout any investigation. We also know how ahead of the November 8 announcement, across the country the BJP converted huge sums of money into landed property and how BJP leaders are now being spotted with lakhs and crores of rupees in the newly introduced 2000 rupee notes. While common people had to defer weddings and were deprived of medical care owing to lack of cash, the likes of Janardan Reddy and Nitin Gadkari hosted royal weddings spending a fortune.

It is becoming clear that almost the entire amount of scrapped currency is set to return to the banking system, putting paid to speculation and rumours of large-scale decimation of hoarded cash, Modi is inflicting immense pain and insult on the poor by incriminating Jan Dhan Accounts as repositories of black money.

One important purpose behind the massive exercise of scrapping big notes seems to have been to bail out the banks which have been looted by India’s big corporate houses and crooks like Vijay Mallya who was made a Rajya Sabha MP by the BJP and allowed to flee the country by the Modi government. Risky loans worth Rs 11 lakh crore have been extended over the years to the corporate sector, which are now being systematically written off in a phased manner.

Note ban has sucked in all the savings of the common people, and the improved liquidity of the banks will now be translated again into cheap loans to the rich and the corrupt.

Apart from injecting fresh capital into the banks, demonetisation is also aimed at giving a big push to the digital India campaign and the entire gamut of pro-corporate economic reforms establishing greater corporate control over the entire economy.

Everything small-scale, from small agriculture and trade to small industries and various enterprises and occupations in the informal sector, will now have to fight hard for sheer survival in the face of heightened corporate aggression.

For the people who are paying the biggest price for the Modi government’s demonetisation disaster, let their sufferings be translated into yet another roaring rebuff for the BJP.

Reject the Modi Emergency,
Resist the Demonetisation Disaster !

The Old Man and the Queue

(Excerpt from a piece by Sidharth Bhatia, The Wire, on 18/12/2016)

LOOK at the photograph on the cover page of this booklet (originally published in Hindustan Times, Photo Credit: Praveen Kumar).

Nand Lal, an elderly ex-serviceman, is crying after missing his spot at a queue outside an SBI branch in Gurgaon.

Look at the photo carefully. The face of the man tells us countless stories of hardships suffered and misfortunes borne with fortitude. We now know that he lives alone in a small room and that he was a soldier; he would have faced enemy bullets and much else, but the failure to withdraw a few hundred rupees even after queuing up for three days proved just too much for him. Knowing that he would have to start all over again, and fully aware that at the end of it he may still come back empty handed, his dam just burst.

It is the others around him that give the photo its real meaning. The women may or may not be sympathising with him, but they don’t want to step out to console him because they could lose their place in the line too. Sympathy and solidarity must take second place to survival. The women’s faces are full of quiet desperation too, because they must get money, however little it may be, and go home, otherwise their families could suffer. The country is united in its suffering, but given that there is so little cash to go around and that even that is so difficult to get, it is each man or woman for themselves. Others’ sadness must wait....

The pain of demonetisation is not going to disappear any time soon. And even when it does, the lives of the poor are not going to improve. The

lines may disappear, but they will have to cope with a regime hellbent on imposing technology on to them; what if a limit of cash withdrawal is set as a permanent feature? We would be foolish to think of this radical step being a whimsical, one-off move; this is part of a larger plan to redraw the way not just the country is administered but also how citizens themselves run their lives. In the meantime, the lines show no signs of getting shorter and people no closer to getting hold of cash.

More stories and more images of hardship will emerge. It is possible that the world will forget Nand Lal and move on. But his image will remain seared in our collective memory, if not our conscience. It is another matter that those who can and should ease his pain will not face that dilemma because they never even registered the photo in the first place.