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Demonetization: Millions of man hours on queues, 100+ deaths. Why punish 96% of people for crimes done by 4%?

By Ujjwal K Chowdhury*
Let us not fool ourselves and ask the following questions or look into the following issues:
(A) Around 12 lakh crores of 14 lakh crores of demonetized money has come back to RBI and with 20 days to go more. At least 1 lakh crore or more will return. Then there is some money already with RBI from the earlier notes. So where is the black money and counterfeit notes gone? Or have they become white?
(B) It is obvious that less than 10% of the black money was held in cash. Some say only 6%. Above fact shows it. Then why punish 96% of the people for crimes done by 4% or lesser? And what a punishment: millions of man hours on queues, 100+ deaths in lines, 15+ bankers dead on duty, several committed suicides, marriages cancelled or turned skeletal, markets standstill, jobs lost etc. etc. India Express, ABP News and Mint have covered very well the human tragedy.
(C) If only 6% of black money held in cash, then remaining 94% can only be held in land, gold, foreign accounts and political funding. Then why NO action so far on these? Why political funding below 20K still unaccounted? Why parties are not under RTI, though we have to show IDs for our own money, and that too for small amounts?
(D) If it is for cashless society with digital money, then how can less than 60,000 bank branches and less than 2 lakh ATMs in India serve nearly 1000 cities and towns and 6 lakh villages? And more so when 54% of the people are outside banking system, electricity has not reach one fourth of India, and at least half the population or more are not computer or smart phone literate forget knowledge of internet. Without access, infra-structure, knowledge and habit being addressed, is such enforced digital economy any practical measure?
(E) Should the government not have launched Rs.500 first (alternative, with strong security measures), in the same size of earlier Rs.500, and NOT launched Rs.2000 notes which no one changes and that too smaller than ATM dispensation mechanism, and that too both very inadequately that even cities are not covered, forget the villages?
(F) Should the govt not have asked people to account for their lands, houses, gold and foreign accounts with known sources of income rather than strike at 500-1000 notes which made up 86% of the currency without replacing even 20% of the denotified money till date?
(G) Changing of goalpost from black money to digital cashless economy, changing of rules of deposit and withdrawals more than 40 times so far in first 30 days of demonetization: what does it show of the govt, its preparations, and the policy as such?
(H) Since terrorists, bankers, touts, BJP functionaries and engineers are being caught with new currency from lakhs to crores, while the banks are giving only Rs.2000 to individuals and Rs.50,000 to companies, does it not make a full scale mockery of the government claims of secrecy, anti-terror measures, and anti-corruption policy? In fact, it is easier to indulge in corruption with Rs.2000 notes now.
Since there are no satisfactory, pro-people, pro-nation answers to these questions, and since economy has come down already by 2%, with sowing season up for a toss ahead, will blind bhakti do ANY national service now? Please go beyond Modis, Amit Shahs, Mamatas, Kejriwals, Rahuls of the world, and truly, truly think of the nation! Where are we moving towards?
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*Education and media consultant. Commentary was first published HERE

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