Demonetization or Demonization?
It’s been a month since PM Modi announced demonetization in order to counter issues of black money, counterfeit currencies, and terror financing (Ref: His speech at 8 PM on 8th Nov). More cashless transactions, bringing segments of informal economy into the formal economy, more people under income tax net etc. are some of the collateral gains.
This post is just to share my experience in last one month w.r.t the move. Few disclaimers and disclosures at the outset.
1. I support the move. It’s well intentioned though implementation could have been better. But no one had a template how to implement an idea of this magnitude, so hiccups were expected.
2. I would any day prefer a govt. taking action with few failures on the way to a govt. of inaction.
3. I don’t think the media’s coverage of the issue has been entirely impartial. For two and a half years before the announcement, media kept on asking, “Where are the big bang reforms you promised?” and now the narrative in the media is “Why this reform which affects so many lives? Why not incremental reforms?”. Pro-Modi media has also done a disservice by promoting false stories like NGC chip in the new notes and then brushing aside genuine sufferings of the public. (At this point, it will be unfair to not point out Mint’s brilliant reportage of this issue on both sides.)
Anyway, this post is not about if it’s a good move or not. I personally feel no one can actually answer that question honestly in next 6 months. So, let’s leave it at that. I will only share what my personal experience has been in last one month. (Inspired by ‘s blog post
- Most of my transactions were already cashless: Rent, Cabs- Ola/Uber, Groceries-Hypermarket/Online, movie tickets, internet, electricity, telephone bills etc.
- Monthly cash transactions mostly included payment to the maid, cook, ironing guy, for availing public transport and miscellaneous expenses.
Exchange and deposit at banks: 0 (I didn’t have any old notes of Rs 500/Rs 1000, lucky me)
No. of times ATMs used after the announcement: 4
December Payments to:
Maid: Partly paid. She wants cash only and in Rs 100 notes. So, we (flatmates) are paying her in installments as we get change in hundred rupee notes.
Cook: As Pintu (our cook) was willing, I added his bank account on NEFT and paid him online. It was the first time in his life, he was using a bank account to receive payments. In a way, he became (or was forced to be) part of the cashless/digital economy because of demonetization. Personally, it was the highest point for me in this whole demonetization process.
Upon asked why he wasn’t using his bank account earlier, he told me that he was simply unaware that banks do have such features. After being explained he can actually transact using his phone, he wants to use UPI now for easy transactions so that his money is directly deposited in his bank account. Demonetization has actually turned out to be an opportunity for him opening new avenues. So when we, the educated elite, assume that the people in the lower strata of life can’t use bank accounts or go digital, there’s no bigger fool than us. It is mostly a case of lack of awareness and if someone explains the procedures properly, anyone can easily use features like NEFT, UPI, and USSD.
Mine can be a one-off case in which I didn’t face adversities like standing long in line at the banks or ATMs. And I am also not belittling hardships faced by thousands of people during this month-long exercise. I am not even living in a dream where India becomes 100% cashless. However, I am also not dismissive of the idea and won’t paint a picture of gloom. The reason India has not resorted to rioting yet despite long lines at ATMs despite provocation by segments of media and the politicians is because India wants to trust the Prime Minister and give him time and wait for results before passing on judgments on the move.