Courtesy: Liberation magazine
Propaganda Vs. People
Indiaâ€™s common people, hit by the Note Ban announcement by PM Modi on 8 November, initially thought that they would suffer temporarily for the noble cause of cleansing the country of black money and punishing black money holders. As the days have passed and Modiâ€™s own 50-day deadline is up, the truth about the Note Ban has unfolded bit by bit. In the pages that follow, a common man and common woman of India discuss the Note Ban and compare its tall promises with its cruel and painful reality. Such conversations are happening all over India â€“ in the endless queues, in homes, on the street corners and in the villages.)
Midnight, 8 November:
PM Modi announces:
Mitron, the Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes are no longer legal tenderâ€¦ itâ€™s a surgical strike on black moneyâ€¦ minor inconvenience for the honest common folk and sleepless nights for the corrupt and rich.
Common Man (CM): Brilliant and brave move. The rich will be discarding their black money in sacks as rubbish! Serves them right!
Common Woman (CW): Weâ€™re willing to stand in queues at the bank and to suffer for the sake of the war on black money.
CM: This will break the back of terror funding, the PM says.
CW: This will ensure clean elections â€“ all the black cash amassed by political parties will become useless overnight!
And then â€¦
Questions About The Implementation
CM: â€œWhy didnâ€™t the Government first print enough cash to replace the old notes? We have to stand in queues everyday because the banks run out of cash. Why arenâ€™t the ATMs configured to match the new notes?â€
CW: I canâ€™t use the Rs 2000 note to pay the electricity bill or the grocer or milkman! The PM keeps saying Rs 100 notes are the notes of the poor â€“ why didnâ€™t the Government print enough Rs 100 notes instead of Rs 2000 notes that are even easier for black marketeers to hoard than Rs 1000 or Rs 500 ones?
CM: The cooperative banks are the ones most used by farmers in rural India. But the Government isnâ€™t allowing these banks to exchange money!
CW: At least we have plenty of time to exchange our money â€“ the PM, the FM, the RBI have all told us we can wait till the queues thin and do it by December 30.
CW on 19 December: I canâ€™t believe this! Now the rules say we have to explain the delay in depositing old notes!
CM: The RBI broke its â€˜promise to pay the bearer.â€™ The PM is breaking his promise to allow us to deposit the old notes any time till December 30! Can we believe anything he says anymore?
CW: If traffic cops changed traffic rules as often as this Government changed demonetization rules, imagine the chaos and accidents on roads!
CM: At the rate the Reserve Bank of India is changing its rules, it should be called Reverse Bank of India!
CW: It is going to take a very long time for sufficient new notes to be printed. This means that for an indefinitely long period of time, people will be prevented from withdrawing any amount that they need from banks. So the PMâ€™s promise that the suffering and troubles are only for 50 days is not true.
Who Bears The Brunt Of The Impact?
CM: Weâ€™re suffering, yes. But surely the rich and corrupt are suffering more! Theyâ€™ll be punished for hoarding black money, plus their illegal cash will be raddi (scrap paper) post December 30!
CW: Hey! The Government has announced that black money can still be deposited post December 30, with a tax of 50% â€“ a mere 5% more than the VID scheme pre 8 November.
CM: So, in the middle of a war with black money, the Government has struck a deal with the enemy, and offered a whitewash service to the corrupt! Cheap and best! Modi detergent washes whitest!
CW: Iâ€™m angry with the seth, the maalik, the sahebs and memsahibs who look down on me, exploit me and treat me like dirt. I would be happy to see them in troubleâ€¦.But theyâ€™re all managing with plastic money, at best they face tiny inconveniences! For me, though, Note Ban has meant Job Ban, Food Man, Life Banâ€¦.
CM: Yes, itâ€™s not the rich and corrupt who are suffering, crying and dying in the queuesâ€¦
CW: OUR weddings are held up or postponedâ€¦While the mining mafia Reddyâ€™s daughter has a Rs 500 crore wedding, BJP Minister Nitin Gadkari charters 50 private planes for VIP guests including PM Modi to his daughterâ€™s wedding, BJP Ministers Bandaru Dattatraya and Arun Jaitley also host lavish weddings!
CM: Vijay Mallya the CEO who robbed the country and ran to London with the Governmentâ€™s help, has praised Note Ban. Lalit Modi who took Sushma Swarajâ€™s help to flee the country also praised Note Ban. Ambani and Adani who get lakhs of crores of loans waived praised Note Banâ€¦.
But it is more than 100 extremely poor men, women, peasants and workers who have died due to demonetization.
Farmers arenâ€™t able to pay for seeds on time; sell their produce due to Note Ban or pay their debts.
Sick people are not able to pay for treatment in hospitals. Cancer patients in rural India are dying because they lack the cash to make the journey to hospitals in the city.
More than 4 lakh workers lost their jobs in 4 sectors alone. 48.63 lakh workers in Delhiâ€™s unorganised sector alone lost their jobs and migrated back to villages. Workers are getting paid in old currency, or their payments are delayed.
The elderly are finding it difficult to survive because they cannot access their pensions. Small shopkeepers are losing business to big malls and corporate retailers because they cannot go â€˜cashless.â€™
College students are unable to pay their fees.
CW: We women saved small amounts of cash over the years, hiding it from alcoholic husbands, for use in case of any emergency. Now, our savings are public. Many women do not have bank accounts so we are forced to deposit them in menâ€™s accounts, losing our control over our own savings. We are eating just one meal a day and we cannot pay for the kidsâ€™ school fees.
CM: Itâ€™s the cruelest joke that the PM is suggesting that our Jan Dhan accounts are being used to launder black money. We â€“ the poor â€“ are not the criminals. Note Ban has resulted in a full scale economic slow-down from which the country â€“ and especially the poor workers and farmers â€“ will need a very long, painful struggle to recover.
The Idea Begins To Unravel
One by one the PMâ€™s tall claims come undone â€“ exposed as liesâ€¦.
Black and Fake Currency
CW: If the aim was to get rid of fake currency, why get rid of ALL old notes? Itâ€™s like destroying the rice to get rid of the stones!
CM: Only 6% black money is in cash â€“ the rest is in gold, land, real estate or foreign banks. The BJP itself had said this in 2014 when it opposed the UPA Government decision to demonetize currency notes printed before 2005.
CW: 77 % of the total demonetized cash came back to the banking system by December 1. This means that 100% of the demonetized notes will be back in the system by December 30. That means black money was not destroyed. Neither were black money holders caught and punished.
CW: Heard Modiâ€™s speeches lately? He is silent now on â€œblack moneyâ€, â€œfake money,â€ or even â€œterror fundingâ€ â€“ that he kept using in his 8 November speech. Now his speeches are full of the words â€œcashlessâ€ and â€œdigitalization.â€
CM: So â€˜black moneyâ€™ was the old jumla, â€œcashlessâ€ is the new one. What next?
Terror Funding and Kashmir
CW: What about the claims that demonetization will smash terror funding or stone pelting stopped in Kashmir because terrorists canâ€™t pay them Rs 500 anymore?
CM: But the news says terrorists have been found with new Rs 2000 notes!
CW: Kashmiris pelt stones because they are angry â€“ not because theyâ€™re paid. If the minds and hearts of each Kashmiri and a solution for the Kashmir problem could be bought for just Rs 500 each, surely the Kashmir problem would have been solved by now?!
CM: True. After all angry Indians in other places also pelt stones. Angry crowds in queues have pelted stones at banks and ATMs Malda in West Bengal and Bulandshahr in UP!
BJP Demonetization Scam
CM: Banks donâ€™t have enough new notes â€¦ but BJP men and various crooks all over India have lakhs of crores of new Rs 2000 notes! How?
CW: A BJP youth leader JVR Arun in Salem, Tamil Nadu said â€œâ€œFor the progress of our country, letâ€™s stand in a queue.â€ Soon after, he was arrested with Rs 20.5 lakhs cash, including 926 new Rs 2000 notes!
CM: Manish Sharma, a BJP candidate in Raniganj, W Bengal in the assembly polls of April-May was arrested with six others including a coal mafia man in Kolkata with bundles of cash amounting to Rs. 33 lakh, most of it in brand new 2,000 rupee notes. Sharma, though expelled from BJP some months back, is close to BJP MP Babul Supriyo.
CW: In Gujarat, on Noveber 16, days after the Note Ban, a bribe amount of Rs 2.9 lakh in brand new Rs 2,000 notes was paid! People in queues did not get cash but the corrupt did!
CM: Just before 8 November 2016, the BJP President Amit Shah ordered BJP leaders all over India to buy land. In Bihar and Odisha, lakhs of crores worth of land was bought by the BJPâ€™s national office. Bihar BJP leader Sushil Modi admits that land was probably bought by BJP in 300 districts of India. Where did BJP get all this money from? Did they have inside information about the Note Ban announcement? PM Modi mocks the Opposition parties saying they did not have time to prepare. Did he give his own party ample time to â€˜prepareâ€™ for Note Ban and dispose of black money?
Modi and Amit Shah have asked BJP MPs and MLAs to submit their accounts since November 8 2016. But what about BJPâ€™s own official account and BJP leadersâ€™ accounts just before November 8?
This Note Bank Scam by the BJP must be investigated by an independent agency!
CW: The BJP has also bought 4 bikes per constituency for its men in UP. In cash-strapped India, how could the BJP afford this huge expenditure?
Cruel Forced Cashlessness
CM: The PM says â€˜Go Cashless.â€™ But in most of rural India, there is no electricity, let alone internet coverage. How can we go cashless?
CW: Going â€˜cashlessâ€™ means investing in a host of extra costs â€“ including buying a swipe machine, paying for cards, paying for a smartphone and internet, paying transaction costs.
CW: I am a street vendor selling vegetables in a city. Before 8 November, selling a kilo of tomatoes was a simple thing: requiring nothing but me with the vegetables and the buyer with the cash. Now the same transaction will require both me and the buyer to have properly charged smartphones and data packs; apps to pay and receive payment; Net banking facility and a working knowledge of English or Hindi as well as knowledge of how to use the app. If by chance I canâ€™t charge my phone while on the street, I canâ€™t sell my wares!
CM: Moreover, the virtual â€˜walletsâ€™ are not like our real life wallets. An e-wallet like PayTM charges money for moving my own money from my â€˜walletâ€™ to my bank account! They also can charge transaction costs at their whim.
CW: It is all too likely that in a cashless economy, the well-off people with plastic money will choose to buy vegetables at Ambaniâ€™s Reliance Fresh or Biyaniâ€™s Big Bazaar rather than my street stall!
CM: Modi said in a speech that beggars also have got swipe machines. Either heâ€™s a fool who believes such nonsense â€“ or a cruel conman cracking a joke at the expense of the poor. CW: If Rahul Gandhiâ€™s or Vijay Mallyaâ€™s twitter accounts could be hacked, canâ€™t online banking accounts also be hacked? Is the PM lying when he says cashless transactions are safer and less prone to corruption?
CM: The PM says wages will be paid directly into workersâ€™ accounts cashlessly or by cheque, ensuring that minimum wage is paid. We workers know thatâ€™s a lie! Owners often keep workersâ€™ ATM cards with them and withdraw money even as they are depositing the official â€˜minimum wageâ€™ amount. So minimum wage theft continues even in â€˜cashlessâ€™ transactions!
CW: And if the internet or network is down as it so often is; or if the network is jammed by police as a security measure as it often is, sometimes for days or weeks on end, how are the â€˜cashlessâ€™ supposed to survive?
CM: Plus, if the purpose was to make the economy cashless, why do it in a way that forces so much pain and suffering on people?
CW: Modi keeps saying he was a â€˜chai walaâ€™ â€“ but his â€˜cashlessâ€™ economy will push tea vendors to poverty! Even Modiâ€™s own brother Prahlad Modi, President of the Ration Shopkeepers Association, has protested against the impact of â€˜cashless economyâ€™ on poor shopkeepers, and has refused to install a swipe machine in his ration shop. He has said, â€œRation shops cannot be expected to bear the costs of installing a swipe machine, and moreover most people who come to the ration shop have neither credit nor debit cards.â€ Canâ€™t Narendra Modi at least listen to his own brother?!
Questioning The Intentions
CM: We began by saying, â€˜The intention was good, implementation bad.â€™ But now we should perhaps ask questions about the PMâ€™s intentions behind demonetization.
CW: Was â€˜Note Banâ€™ just a mad and cruel whim of Modi the megalomaniac? So that Modi can feel powerful like a cross between Tughlaq and Hitler?
CM: Yes. But thereâ€™s also a method in the madnessâ€¦. Remember how crooks like Mallya looted Indiaâ€™s banks and scooted without paying loans? The total amount of risky loans thus looted from banks by rich loan defaulters is Rs 11 lakh crore. To put this in perspective, recall that the 2G scam was just Rs 1.76 lakh crore â€“ a tiny fraction of this amount. How are these huge loans to be recovered?
If I am an ordinary farmer who takes a bank loan â€“ I would have to repay the loan somehow even if I have to sell my fields for that. Farmers unable to repay debts have committed suicide in lakhs in our country. Governments refuse to waive loans of farmers. But in effect they are waiving the huge bank loans of the richest people in the country!
Governments are not willing to confiscate the assets of these rich loan defaulters, nor to blacklist them for further loans. Instead, in November 2016 the SBI has written off loans worth Rs 7,000 crore of its top 63 loan defaulters â€“ including that of Vijaya Mallyaâ€™s Kingfisher Airlines. Mallya owns several homes in the UK and is living in luxury even today, having fled India with the Governmentâ€™s help. Similarly in 2015, public sector banks â€˜restructuredâ€™ massive loans owed by Mukesh Ambaniâ€™s Reliance Gas to various public sector banks: Ambani will have to repay the loans by 2031 instead of 2019!
Now, because of these huge unpaid loans, banks became severely short of cash. The Government has chosen to restore cash to the banksâ€™ coffers â€“ not by forcing the rich defaulters to pay their loans but by using demonetization to suck the savings of the poor into banks, and controlling the release of hard-earned savings only in small trickles. The poor are standing in queue for days on end and unable to withdraw their own savings. But banks will now be able to use those savings of the common people to pay out cheap loans again to the rich and corrupt!
The other day, I heard Shaktikanta Das â€“ the Governmentâ€™s Economic Affairs Secretary â€“ admit on TV that because of the Note Ban, â€œDomestic savings lying idle at home have come into banking system, will enable banks to give loans at lower interest rates.â€ Mr Das, my savings are not â€˜lying idle at homeâ€™ â€“ they were needed by me for running my family on a daily basis. Now they are lying in the banks â€“ for you to give cheaper loans to the rich. My savings will, with your Governmentâ€™s help, be looted from banks by the rich and corrupt for their profits!
CW: So, the Note Ban isnâ€™t done to benefit us common people or punish the corrupt at all! Only to allow the corrupt to loot what we earned with blood and sweat.
CM: Thereâ€™s more. Remember how on November 9 itself â€“ the very morning after the PM Modiâ€™s announcement of Note Ban on the midnight of 8 November â€“ newspapers had full-page PayTM ads with the PM Modi himself in them. Clearly the PayTM company must have had prior information about the Note Ban decision to have had their ad ready.
CW: The PM says â€˜PayTM Karoâ€™ â€“ go cashless, go digital. That will mean that many companies like PayTM will be able to skim profits from the smallest transactions of ordinary people. The BJP had made a show of opposing FDI in Retail, saying this would hit the small retailers and â€˜mom-and-popâ€™ stores. But once in power, they have also supported FDI in retail. The forced entry into the cashless economy through the Note Ban will also serve the interests of the big retailers. Small-scale agriculture, fishing, shops, industries as well as informal sector will take a beating as big corporates benefit from the cashless and digital economy.
All over the world, the poor use cash, and it is the rich who mostly use plastic cashless â€˜money.â€™ Drying up the cash flow and forcing digitalization in the economy inevitably hits the poor hard.
CM: Quite deliberately, private sector banks are getting more cash than the public sector banks. Through the Note Ban disaster, public sector banks also will be delegitimized.
CW: The other reason for the Note Ban decision is political. With Assembly elections in several states coming up, resentment was building up against the Modi Government for its broken promises. Modi had failed to bring back black money, bring down prices or create jobs. Instead all around attacks on Dalits and minorities by Sangh outfits which had the patronage of the Government. The PM first tried to bolster his sagging popularity with the â€˜surgical strikeâ€™ in Uri. But people began to question why such a large number of soldiers were being killed on Modiâ€™s watch â€“ and why the Indian security establishment was unable to prevent attacks on military camps at Pathankot, Uri, or Nagrota. So Modi needed a new election plank â€“ and he hoped that the â€˜surgical strike on black moneyâ€™ would help rebuild his image.
The Modi Emergency
CM: Narendra Modi is also using the Note Ban as a test run for fascism. In making the decision he bypassed the decision-making mechanisms of the RBI, his own Cabinet as well as Parliament. He is trying to see how far he can go in imposing a secretive, destructive and undemocratic decision on the public.
CW: The poor are beginning to realize that Modi lied to them about Note Ban being pro-poor and against the rich and corrupt. So now the RSS machinery is busy spreading rumours about Modiâ€™s plans to provide housing for the poor and other benefits. Such promises are totally hollow. In fact, Modi and his Government are cutting back on all pro-poor welfare schemes including MNREGA and Food Security.
CM: Modi â€˜bhaktsâ€™ branded students as â€˜anti-nationalâ€™ and beat them up for criticizing the PM. They bully and beat up all dissenting voices, and they shower abuses on women who criticize or question the PM. Now, even criticizing the PM for the disastrous Note Ban decision is being branded â€˜anti-national.â€™ Lallan Singh Khushwaha, a Delhi man, was beaten up by some criminals for criticizing Modiâ€™s Note Ban decision.
CW: As journalist Ravish Kumar said, all citizens must perforce chant â€˜Baagon me bahaar haiâ€™ (Spring is in the air/All is well) and must not question decisions of the PM, no matter how much we suffer. Questioning will be silenced by creating a climate of fear. If this is not an Emergency, what is?
CM: The PM in his speech promised the nation that we could punish him at public crossroads all over the country if the sufferings of the poor lasted beyond 50 days. The 50 days are up but the Note Ban pain seems permanent. Let us hold public hearings at every crossroad, and invite the PM to attend. If he does not dare to come face the peopleâ€™s wrath, let us burn his effigies instead.
Note Ban Is A Modi-Made Disaster: Compensate Citizens Hit By It
Note Ban has been nothing short of a disaster â€“ for the economy, for the poor, for the country. It has pushed people who were somehow eking out their survival, over the edge into destitution and penury. People are desperate â€“ on the brink of starvation; suddenly rendered jobless; and unable to afford medical care, fees for education and other necessities. The Prime Minister should take responsibility for this disastrous decision. When a natural calamity occurs, the Government and Prime Minister compensate the affected people. In the case of a man-made disaster like the Note Ban, directly created by the Prime Minister Modi himself, the Government must compensate the people for the immense sufferings and losses inflicted on them for no fault of theirs.
Moreover the Government must take concrete measures that really hit at black money holders â€“ not protect such corrupt people behind a smokescreen of â€˜Note Banâ€™.
The Government must immediately:
â€¢ Ensure free rations, free treatment at all government and private hospitals
â€¢ Waive all farmersâ€™ loans and studentsâ€™ school/college fees
â€¢ Publish the list of bank defaulters and black money holders who have accounts in foreign banks.
â€¢ Make it mandatory for political parties to publicly disclose all their sources of funding.
â€¢ Why has the Modi Government failed to appoint a Lokpal yet? Appoint a Lokpal without further delay.