By Dr. Ambrose Pinto SJ
Bengaluru: Demonetization is not against black money.
Right from the beginning I have refused to accept demonetization as a fight against black money.
By saying that demonetization is alright but the manner of its implementation is not right, the opposition parties are fooling the public. They think they are safe by adopting an opportunistic position though they know the measure in itself is not good for the country. Unable to stand up to the Prime Minister’s propaganda machinery which has been propagating that demonetization is to fight corruption they have decided not to go against that current being afraid that their standing with the people would further decline.
Demonetization cannot put an end to black money. There is no big black money in cash. It is in banks, estates, gold and jewelry. Political parties, corrupt government officials, lawyers, doctors, traders or builders, might keep some black money in cash, but more than 90 percent is in the form of gold, real estate, foreign accounts and used in consumption or business expenditures.
It is here the state should fight against black money if it is serious.
It is an assault on people’s life and resources
Let us be clear that demonetization is an assault on people’s hard earned cash, livelihoods and dignity. It has not affected the rich and the powerful at all because 1 percent of India has 56 percent of the country’s wealth and 76 percent of its wealth is in the hands of 10 percent people. India is one of the most unequal countries in the world. It is in the top 10 percent that black money rests. Should 90 percent of people be made to pay for punishing the guilty 10 percent?
What is worse is that the money of the poor is now being rationed to people by government. We cannot draw our own money which is required for livelihood. This is an attack on the right to livelihood and life. The poor do not have money to live. The inconvenience is turning into anger and may soon lead to violence if right measures are initiated without delay.
How foolish is that statement that people should go through short-term pain for long term gain? The poor have been at pains all through and political parties have fooled them all. It would serve little purpose to recount stories of difficulties faced, or tragedies experienced, by people without money in hospitals, pharmacies, and bank queues. More than 100 people have dies standing in lines at banks and ATMs to get their own money. There are hundreds of others whose deaths are officially not recorded had to die because they had no cash. There is widespread distress in rural areas and much hardship in towns and cities. Should the poor be made to pay this price when the rich are least affected?
A cashless economy is death of the informal sector
After fooling them on the real intentions of demonetization the Prime Minister has begun talking about cashless economy to fight corruption, another fraud on the people.
Let us examine the facts. We have just 53 percent of adults with bank accounts, but two-fifths of these accounts are dormant. Only 15 percent of existing bank accounts are used to make or receive payments. As many as 250 million bank accounts were opened under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY Prime Minister’s People Money Scheme) during 2014-2016 and another 250 million accounts were opened, of which 60 million accounts have zero balances even now. More than half our population has no access to the banking system. More than 95 percent transactions in the country are in cash.
In rural India the density of banks and ATMs are less. The entire informal economy functions on cash both in rural and urban areas. Beginning with construction, wholesale retail trade, hotels and restaurants, domestic services, transport, and small-scale manufacturing—where sales and purchases are mostly in cash and so are wages. How can the country then move into cashless economy? The plan of the Prime Minister seems to be to get rid of the informal economy and turn the country into a fully corporate economy creating loss of thousands of jobs and loss of livelihoods of millions.
The Poor have no cards
In the name of cashless economy is the Prime Minister trying to make the country cashless? Those who have cards have huge cash in the banks and other assets. The cardless are the poor. Why should they switch over to a cashless economy? Such institutional force is against personal freedom.
If cash remains scarce for long, it could turn into violence. People are at break point. The rich, the corporates and the political parties in nexus with state power are looting the wealth of the poor and the average citizens. In spite of demonetization look at the scams – money in crores (millions) in new currency discovered in raids of members of political parties, bureaucrats and those close to the centers of power reported in the media every day since demonetization.
The rich have not changed their lifestyles. Look at the posh weddings of the political class and their extravagant life styles. Contrast this with deaths and sufferings of people at the banks, hospitals and markets. How long will people be silent? Will the Opposition parties at least now denounce the entire demonetization process and educate the people. The Modi Government should not be allowed to get away with its outrageous falsehood and propaganda about demonetization. We need a surgical strike to expose every false claim and nail every lie of the ruling regime.
[Dr. Ambrose Pinto, SJ, is the Principal of St. Aloysius Degree College, Bangalore 560005. The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Matters India and Matters India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.]