The Reserve Bank report confirming the shocking truth that 99.3 per cent of the banned Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes, or Rs 15,31,073 crores of Rs 15,40,000 crores of the demonetised currencies, were back in the banking system, is no surprise. The government got a mousey Rs 10,720 crores, presumed to be black money. It’s a cruel joke on the economy and nation: the government had claimed Rs 3 lakh crores had come into the banking system. It boggles the mind to wonder which planet those who did this fanciful calculation were living. Only a gullible few believed the government when it said the ban was imposed to ferret out black money. It is common knowledge that people with unaccounted cash don’t stash it in mattresses but park it in sectors like real estate and gold. As the government realised its monumental folly, it kept changing the goalposts. The objective was said to be a push to a cashless economy, Narendra Modi’s pet vision of a Digital India. But this too turned a mirage. Other objectives were fighting terrorism, corruption and fake currency — all these bugbears are still with us. After a spike in cashless transactions, primarily due to cash shortages, cash is back as king. Our rulers don’t seem to know India, whose rural economy is cash-driven.
But all this is past. It’s time now to fix responsibility for this folly and whimsicality that resembles the acts of sultans and emperors of old. One shifted his capital from Delhi to Agra, another shifted it back. India was the world’s laughingstock: currency is demonetised as the last resort when the economy collapses. India had no such problem: on the contrary, it was the fastest growing economy.
Who will take responsibility for 100-plus lives lost, children’s education that was derailed, the sick who couldn’t afford medical aid, untold and unimaginable suffering of farmers, and daily workers deprived of their wages for months?
The economy lost over one per cent of GDP and was burdened with an expenditure of Rs 12,877 crores for printing of notes in the next two years. The small, medium and micro sector that depends on cash had to shut down, throwing an estimated 15 crore daily wage earners out of employment. This sector is the economy’s backbone.
In Japan and nations like Australia, leaders are known to take responsibility and resign. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is yet to comment on the RBI report, and so is the BJP president. How will those who suffered during this hare-brained demonetisation be compensated? In fact, a further blow was dealt to the economy by the hurried introduction of the Goods and Services Tax. These questions have been asked earlier, but there have been no answers. The country is eagerly waiting to hear from Mr Modi.