The recent move by the government to demonetise ₹500 and ₹1000 notes, came as quite a surprise; with approximately four hours on the clock to spare until all notes of 500 and 1000 would be worthless, so to speak, a sense of panic had already begun to set into the minds of the aam aadmi.
A quick round of the city after the announcement was made, and a flurry of people could be seen queuing up outside ATMs, cash deposit machines and petrol stations to either exchange the soon to be worthless currency, or deposit it in their accounts. To further exacerbate the situation, a number of forwarded messages on social media platforms like WhatsApp had also started doing the rounds. With PM Modi’s declaration blaring on the television, and the sudden sense of fear setting in on the other hand, quite a few people could not catch a shut eye all night.
As expected, confusion ensued. Everyone seemed to have their own version of the if, how, when and why, as banks and ATMs remained shut for the next two days, thus leaving the public in a lurch, searching for answers.
Personally, speaking, my immediate reaction was that of, “No not another antic by this man!” I could not understand what he was trying to achieve by this move, as, to me it just seemed like another futile attempt in the existing fight against corruption.
Another day had passed, and I had, to an extent convinced myself, that maybe, Modi’s most recent attempt to fight corruption, was after all, not all that bad; for the first time, my opinions of the man, and his policies, had earned me the title of a ‘sceptic friend’ of his.
The fact that this policy had already rendered hordes of black money worthless, was quite awesome; this money could not be exchanged or deposited, and there was no immediate resolution available, reigned down as a bolt of lightning on the corrupt and shady individuals sitting atop bags of unaccounted cash. On the surface, it seemed like PM Modi’s scheme had in one great sweep taken down all the corrupt citizens of this country. So, the inconvenience that a few of us had to suffer at the hands of these dishonest individuals was just a small price to pay for the greater good, i.e. a Swachh Bharat.
Sadly, the immediate effects of this move have not been pleasant, and the inconvenience suffered has been greater than what was initially anticipated.
Even though this policy is essentially meant to affect 70% of the country’s population, as only 30% of the population lives below the poverty line (www.indiaspend.com), the remaining 70% have been left high and dry, searching for alternatives, for the sake of a handful of those hoarding black money.
Rishikesh, a much smaller city compared to the other urban centres in the country, is still facing its fair share of issues.
Being a small town, banks have not been provided with enough cash to meet the demands of the city’s population looking to exchange notes of bigger denominations with notes of smaller denominations like 100s, 50s and 10s.
The new ₹2000 notes are also short in supply, whereas the new ₹500 notes have not yet surfaced in banks in Rishikesh.
Furthermore, the middle-class population in the city has been facing a lot of trouble in their daily transactions, as notes of smaller denominations are hard to avail. Small businesses, who can show legitimate receipts and ledger entries for their daily transactions, are refusing to accept ₹500 and ₹1000 notes.
It is a catch-22 situation for most people as on one hand they are right in not accepting ₹500 and ₹1000 notes given the RBI has implemented a complete ban on these denominations, however, on the other hand, in a city, as small as Rishikesh, their refusal to accept the banned currency notes has inconvenienced the larger population to quite a great extent; moreover, with the number of weddings that take place during this time, bigger vendors are also refusing to accept these notes, which is a genuine problem for families who had withdrawn large sums of money before the policy came into practice. Now with a limit on the amount of money that can be exchanged and withdrawn in day, these families have been left in a fix.
An unsystematic implementation where the banks have not been given enough cash, the software in ATMs has not been updated to support the new currency, foreign tourists who tend to carry notes of bigger denominations being inconvenienced for no fault of theirs, has left a sour after taste in the mouths of many.
This said, it is still too soon to judge the pros and cons of this policy, until it comes into full effect next year once the new financial year has begun, and the new GST policy comes into effect. I, it seems, will not be extending a hand of friendship towards Mr Modi anytime soon.