|Poor people queue up for cash in Kevadia|
It is already more than a month, and you can still see queues outside of banks and ATMs. The demon of demonetization is still hunting crores of people in India. Everyday changing goals, from black money to cashless economy, providing new withdraw and deposit limits, government mvoes are shocking common people. The fascist nature of the government is throwing crores of common, marginalized people into misery.
A recent report by the research firm New World Wealth said that India is the most unequal country, with 54 percent of its wealth is in the hands of millionaires (who were only 2.5 lakh in 2014). The Modi government's decision of demonetization is not a war against black money but is a trick to snatch poors' savings. Prime Minister Narendra Modi should go to bank queues and see who all are standing there and are suffering from his fascist decision.
Instead of auditing the funding of political parties, raiding ministers and political power houses, builders, corporates business offices, etc., the Modi government is searching the kitchens and pockets of poor women, farmers, labourers and common people for black money. There is no investigation of people whose information was leaked in Panama Papers and who have Swiss bank accounts.
In Modi's home state
Here is a story from his home state, Gujarat, which I encountered: Kevadiya is a main tourist attraction due to the Sardar Sarovar dam on Narmada. Here, every Sunday, a weekly market is organized, where people (mostly adivasis) come from remote areas for selling their products. I spoke to the people there about demonetization. They told me that their markets have been ruined. Now no one is there to buy. “Market is very low and at the end of the day we are forced to sell our products at a cheap rate because we cannot carry them back”, one of them said.
Meanwhile, I heard the news that that, somewhere in Madhya Pradesh, tomato producers threw tonnes of tomatoes on the highway, as they were not able to get the cost of their produce.
In the evening, while having my dinner in the hotel, I was told, a farmer was selling his 10 kg of brinjal for only Rs 10 after making requests to many a purchaser. I approached this farmer, and he said, “No one was there to buy, I am coming from here far away and cannot take this back with me, so I am selling this at this rate.” He was at the weekly market for the whole day and got no purchaser. He didn't know much about demonetization, but was affected by it.
I talked with women in village Khadgada, Gujarat. they told me, “What does this government want? Where is black money? Are they in our kitchens or in the hands of labourers or farmers like us, who earned Rs 2000 in a month?” They were right: A labourer or a small farmer in India earns Rs 2000 a month, and the Modi government has released the Rs 2000 note!
Even as this is happening, the government is converting black money into white money by allowing payment of 50 percent tax. This is the worst decision that may have been taken by the government. There is no imprisonment.This is an unethical step of the government.
The government failure to stop counterfeit currency in market appears to have been covered by this decision. Yet, it praises this decision, saying, it would stop counterfeit currency in the market. Meanwhile, there is news that, already, counterfeit Rs 2000 currency notes are in circulation. There is no guarantee against counterfeit currency coming into the market, nor is there any monitoring regulation against this.
Recent steps of the Modi government to convert the economy into a cashless one is like making satire from the earth on the heaven. I don’t think an economy where 94 percent people deal with cash on a daily basis will start cashless transactions. At a time when one cannot find mobile network, ATMs and banking system at many places, how can one make online transactions? In a country where more than 20 percent people find it difficult to feed themselves and are illiterate, how would they deposit money, use debit card, and pay banking and debit card charges? First the Modi government should provide good banking and mobile network system in villages, then think of cashless economy.
I came to know from newspapers that many factories in Kolkata have shut down. In Noida, small industries are asking labourers to go home. This is happening when BJP leaders are spending crores in their daughters' wedding. They were caught with crores of rupees in new notes, when common people were found withdrawing Rs 4000 or 10,000 a week. Did they rob banks? Or did Reserve Bank of India issue them new notes in advance?
I saw a bank in Barwani, where labourers and farmers were in queue withdrawing money for their wages and fertilizers, respectively. Meanwhile, short of cash, I was not able to buy a notebook for an adivasi girl in Maharashtra. I had a Rs 2000 note, which I withdrew from ATM, but was unable to spend. Instead of spending the amount, I began killing my choices.
The Modi government decision has worsened the condition of the common people and has thrown the poor, the labourers and the farmers towards death. Now one reads the news regarding exemption given to political parties from income tax. Is that what the Modi government wants, making political parties a washing machine for black money? Previously they were exempted from being covered under the right to information (RTI) Act, and now this! It is really shocking.
I think I made a mistake in 2014, which I wouldn’t do again.
*Azim Premji University