February 16, 2017 7:21:16 pm
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has meandered around the idea of demonetisation but never clearly gave away his agenda. PM Modi announced demonetisation in his address to the nation on November 8 claiming that the aim of the exercise was to hit at the heart of black money problem in the country. The second important agenda that the prime minister announced was stopping counterfeit currency from being used to fund terror groups and terrorist operations.
In his speech on the November 8, Modi had said: “To break the grip of corruption and black money, we have decided that the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes presently in use will no longer be legal tender from midnight tonight, that is 8th November 2016.”
“To break the grip of corruption and black money” was the primary reason advocated by the PM to introduce demonetisation. He had said: “This step will strengthen the hands of the common man in the fight against corruption, black money and fake currency.”
PM Modi even broke down while backing demonetisation at a BJP conclave in Goa. He said, “If I commit any mistake, I am ready to face any punishment the country will give me. But I promise to deliver a corruption-free India. I was not born to sit on a chair of high office. Whatever I had, my family, my home-I left it for nation. If you asked me to defeat the menace of black money, how can I not do it? The previous government was delaying it.”
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Obviously, the common man lost his way and suffered as the authorities didn’t alert the people before taking such a mammoth exercise. “Experience tells us that ordinary citizens are always ready to make sacrifices and face difficulties for the benefit of the nation,” the PM had said. Ordinary citizens faced difficulties, maybe too much than they deserved, but to no avail.
Even as the country was coming to terms with this move, cash restrictions, instead of being eased, were tightened. Cashless and digital economy was the pitch that PM Modi gave this time. In his first Mann Ki Baat after demonetisation on November 27, weeks after the public demanded answers from the PM, he said: “I had said it will take about 50 days for the situation to normalise. It is not easy to get rid of the 70-year-old problem. Common man will be trouble-free if they are made aware of the digital financial transaction options. I reiterate that I need your support. I am positive that you will help me. Take a pledge that you’ll b a part of cashless economy.”
What followed was a indirect advertisement for e-wallet companies before the government finally introduced its own BHIM app. Private e-wallet companies were allowed time to move in and make use of the situation. Business boomed multifold before any intervention from the government.
Mobile banking, internet banking, electronic money transfers, utility payments over digital channels etc were alien to even a large section of the young generation. The country was distracted from black money and started struggling to grapple with e-payments and trying to understand what digital economy and cashless payments were all about.
Election campaign season came calling and a sudden surge of raids was seen across the election bound states. It was said that demonetisation was tracing out illegal political funding. There were attempts to earn political brownie points. Bitter words were exchanged between PM Modi and leaders like Mayawati who alleged her party was being targeted.
In all, the country is still seeking some closure on the whole exercise.
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