PM Modi has become the public face of demonetisation with his abrupt red alert demonetising.
Demonetisation is one of the ultimate weapons in a nation’s economic and financial armoury. It is somewhat akin in this context to nuclear weapons. It is a strong financial medicine with distinct punitive overtones and can sometimes prove extremely bitter, daunting many patients who would often prefer to throw it away and suffer, than voluntarily swallow the physician’s prescription. Demonetisation should ideally be invoked only in extremis, after due discussion and public debate, and imposed only after rigorous administrative planning, preferably with an adequate warning period.
But all this would be feasible only in an ideal world, because the reality in India’s corner of the universe is totally different.
The reality here is Pakistan and its “jihad-fi-sabilillah” (meaning “in the cause of Allah”) campaign of terrorism against India. It extends over a wide range of operations, including covert economic warfare in the form of illegal infusion of Indian currency notes to fund terrorism inside this country.
These currency notes can be both genuine or forged, (forged Indian currency notes, or FICN, of surprisingly good quality), inducted into the country and its economic system through a network of couriers, carriers and hawala operators working through porous international borders, with neighbouring countries, particularly Bangladesh and Nepal.
The recent sudden demonetisation of Indian currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination was shock therapy against the illegal monetary circuit, which has created seismic shockwaves throughout the country, affecting all strata of society. It has given rise to a torrent of criticism against the government by honest taxpayers, big and small, who had undoubtedly been seriously inconvenienced.
The economic pain was assiduously fanned by political parties in the Opposition, but is now slowly dissipating. There is a substantive chunk of opinion which has veered around to the view that demonetisation was a good scheme in conception, but harshly flawed in execution.
But the fact of the matter also is that same demonetisation measure has also interdicted and severely lacerated the entire illegal terrorist funding network operated by the Inter-Services Intelligence in Pakistan, an aspect that needed to be publicised in India, but did not receive the necessary media coverage amidst the general uproar of a raucously accusative chorus of vicious political name-calling which continuously dominated almost all the national and regional channels on the visual media in the recent past.
The government’s own efforts to counter adverse criticism and explain its apparently “draconian” (a favourite political pejorative) but nevertheless most essential measure in India’s counter-terrorism posture against the Pakistan-sponsored and funded terror campaigns in Jammu and Kashmir, and its extortion funded variation in the Naxalite strongholds in Middle India, sounded feeble and unconvincing, something for which the government has only itself and its official machinery to blame, even though in this particular instance it did have a fairly strong case of its own. Perhaps the official counter-terrorism, counter-propaganda and other psychological operations agencies have yet to fully comprehend that Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and WhatsApp have changed the face of information warfare forever, and these agencies need to get their act together, the quicker the better.
Demonetisation is one of the major operational options available to India along the economic extension of the geographical Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, to interdict the financial underground express from Pakistan bringing funds and counterfeit currency into this country via complex hawala and currency networks originating in the US, Europe, or West Asia to fund Pakistan-sponsored terrorism by in-country adherents of Hafeez Saeed, Masood Azhar and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has become the public face of demonetisation with his abrupt red alert demonetising. This has cracked a seismic whiplash on the psyche of the aam aadmi across the country, and triggered a massive socio-political firestorm whose full closure cannot be foreseen as yet. Meanwhile, an “all’s well that ends well” closure to the entire drama will hopefully come about sooner rather than later.
In the meanwhile, the Winter Session of Parliament stands well and truly disrupted, and taxpayers would be justified in demanding an account of their taxes paid for the productive functioning of the national legislature. The performance of the government in both Houses was lacklustre, but ground reports emanating out of the Kashmir Valley indicate that the short sharp jab to the solar plexus administered to the militants by monetary demonetisation has indeed been punishing where it really matters.
Incidents of stone-throwing have decreased sharply, because the going rates of “bonus” to be paid in cash to “the boys” as stone-pelters, arsonists and arms snatchers have remained unpaid. Local Kashmiri youth who had found steady employment in Srinagar as daily wage anti-India agitators are now facing “unemployment” due to the paucity of cash for payment of wages in acceptable currency at the current going rates, said to be Rs 500 per day for stone-pelters, Rs 1,000 per weapon snatched from the police and so on.
Added to this is the relatively recent phenomenon of school burning, whose significance is still not fully clear and remains the subject of much noisy speculation on television panels. The Pakistan Army seems to have embarked on a strategy of continuously upping the ante in terms of renewed cross-border firing now known by the traditional euphemism of “ceasefire violations” — a term which rings absurdly hollow and ridiculously farcical. Pakistani cross-border firing has caused casualties to Indian civilians, and extensive damage to property and infrastructure. Indian soldiers too have suffered casualties. “Surgical strikes” across the Line of Control too will have to be periodically repeated, in all the multiple dimensions of India’s own “war on terror”. The Pakistan Army’s “Operation Gibraltar”, originally conceived in 1965, may be making its redux in a 3.0 remake. Therefore, let there be no doubts at all — the present lull is only temporary.