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Saturday, November 12, 2016

Babel Over Balck Money

The decision to demonetize the high denomination currency notes has sharply divided the national opinion which is not quite unexpected. Such is the political climate today, that if someone takes a stand against cannibalism, there are bound to be people in support of human beings eating other human beings. Obviously, no one has quite lamented, “oh! My precious hoard of treasured currency notes, the result of years of dishonest toil.” They foist some public purpose on to their opposition to the move. The poor, as always, come in handy. It has been alleged that it is they who are bearing the brunt. They are indeed but   they are bearing  it with fortitude.  After many economists and public figures have proclaimed its still birth  one feels a little intimidated in  putting orth ones views . But such is the overarching nature of the decision that to remain silent would be a failure of civic responsibility.
I must first make clear what is my understanding of the government decision to outmode the 1000, and 500 notes to curb black money. 

I think it is just one measure in a complex array of such measures to be taken up in future.

I do not think that this step will end black money for ever and we will live happily ever after.

It is obvious that this measure will impact only the money hoarded in form of currency notes but its cascading effect would be felt only after a while.

For the impact of any decision to be felt takes time and such drastic measure causes large-scale upheaval. As usual the poor are the worst collateral damage.

It also shows which of the travails of the poor are worth taking notice by political class and which best ignored . 

More than an economic measure I think it is a reminder to our society of the debauched state of our financial system.  Its universal reach  has led people to join the discourse on public morality. Everyone feels compelled to take a stand. Those who have the hoarded cash and their outspoken supporters must now become a matter of public knowledge.
The poor are at the centre stage no matter which way you look at it .Those who are condemning it and those who are approving it are doing it in the name of the poor. .
In every society there are eternal nay sayers, all knowers, contrarians, prophets of doom, and arm chair reformers who want their reforms served up to them in their cosy perch. They will always opt for the other option which is not there. 
Economists and those who know, fear that the move may not only fail to contain black money; it may actually increase the supply. Some of them are already predicting its failure. It will be timely to ask the question of them “How and why has our economy arrived at this state where, it is half black and half white .It is not the case that carpenters, masons and plumbers were advising the government all this while. Despite being under the care of qualified and eminent economists, if the economy has acquired its mulatto character, we know things happen despite the wisdom of economists . Contentious but let us pass for the moment, we can discuss it some other time. Meanwhile the pro government and anti government economists can slug it out.
Let us now address the concern of the political class for the poor. Had the political class in general been concerned about the poor they would have long ago come out of their poverty .After all Garibi Hatao was the most outspoken agenda for very long . For starters, it has been said that the industrialists , capitalists etc are not to be find in the queue; it is the poor who are standing in the queue etc. and they have been harassed. As for the poor standing in the queue, it is for the simple reason that their holdings of these big denomination notes can be carried in their pockets or purses and they are unafraid ; the ones who have them stacked from the floor to ceiling in stadium size warehouses may have deployed an army of carriers of small portions. They would not have the courage to take them in trucks to the bank. The poor are happy, the poor feel proud and empowered, honest toil over dishonest theft is being vindicated for the first time. 
As for wasting of hours – this is ridiculous. Time and human lives are the only two things of which there is a limitless supply and are wasted with great alacrity. It also shows which of the travails of the poor are worth taking notice and which best ignored. Take for instance the Gandhi Setu. In 15 years of its dilapidated existence it has caused a loss of billions upon billions of man hours have been lost and, as in any dislocation , the poor are the least protected against losses. People wasting time in queues has become an issue where the staple of our democratic politics is dharnas bands rasta rokos.
To say that the BJP has laundered all its black money in these two and a half years beggars the imagination.I do not know whether some people pretend imbecility or are they God gifted in this department .Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead, but here we are being asked to believe that any number of BJP fund managers were on the job, without any one coming to know . This reminds me of what Lenin said about that maverick intellectual Dwight Macdonald. “ Everybody has a right to be stupid, but comrade Macdonald absolutely abuses the privilege “. So many people should abuse their privilege at once is quite amusing. If Mr. Modi has done this for the motive above ( absolutely impossible! ) I will suggest the best tack. He could be condemned by TS Eliot’s line “The last act is the greatest treason./ To do the right thing for the wrong reason”
My contention is that instead of being “anti poor” this move has placed the poor man in the centre of the national drama that is being played out