Saturday, November 12, 2016

India Demonetizes Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 Currency Notes- My Take

My take on the demonetization story: 

If there is one lesson from Trump's upset (?) victory last week, it is that the media and thinking (?) liberals who sit in their ivory towers and comment on social media about what should and should not be considered good or bad, appeared to the silent majority to be talking down to them. To a slightly lesser degree this is also true of the Brexit vote. 

The silent majority are the ones who are directly affected. Imagine this analogy from a car. The silent majority are the rubber particles on the tire which grind against the road, they are the particles in the  mechanical parts of the engine that do all the grinding and feel the heat. Imagine the particles of the steering wheel ( which is sitting in the cool comfort of an air conditioned cabin) talking among themselves and say in social media about how fantastic modern tech is, how much society has progressed and occassionally paying lip service to the hard working particles out there! And all the while, the particles on the steering wheel are suffering from delusions of grandeur that they are the ones because of whom the car is going where it was supposed to go!  

Once you give every particle one vote and there comes around someone telling them that they are getting ripped out by the 'ruling elite' or the 'liberal media' , even if that someone is a real estate salesman who will lie through his teeth to get a sale, the message strikes home. And come election time these downtrodden particles will vote for their smooth talking perceived champion as among other things it signifies poking a finger in the eye of the high and mighty talking down to them. This is what most pollsters missed. While the liberal media, the ruling elite (including Mr and Mrs Obama) and twitterati were busy labeling Trump a bigot, racist, xenophobic person who is 'unfit' to be President, all the silent majority were thinking was "look who is talking! The very same guys who Mr Trump has opened our eyes to! and they are telling us how we should think when we have lost our jobs, we are hurting due to high Obamacare premiums or getting shot on the streets!!! ".

I am seeing a parallel, in the situation vis-a-vis the Rs 1000 and Rs 500 demonetization.  Shr Modi - whatever his 'ulterior' motives - was hard pressed to come up with something resembling a 'war' on black money.  I don't think he called it a 'surgical strike'. The media gave it that label. For him this was just another move in the fight to make India a better place to be. No one disagrees that corruption and its grease black money are like a cancer that is eating at India's vitals. And if it needed some chemo therapy he was prepared to take it on and administer that dreaded treatment. As we all know unfortunately chemo therapy does not discriminate and kills some good cells with the bad cells. In all my readings and private chats with friends in India, I have gathered that the man on the street has generally bought and believed Shri Modi's good intentions. Even the rural villagers who are sick and tired of being exploited by the local ruling elite are probably thinking that they will accept a little personal pain if only it helps to ruin the local village kingpin!  People are comparing the bankers who are braving the brunt of this to our army men and singing praises for their efforts!  

And what do the liberal media, the opposition, some parts of the twitterati, even some IIM profs  do? They are busy  questioning the motives or saying that this is not a 'surgical strike' or that it is hurting the poor man on the street. They are even showing pictures of long queues in some places. But friends and relatives who have had personal experience tell me that the exchange of notes at their bank was a pretty smooth affair. he government has made it amply clear that other than the inconvenience of exchanging the demonetized notes, the law abiding common man need not worry. Sure there will be collateral damage. All policy will be paralyzed if avoidance of collateral damage is one of the conditions to be met. What can be aimed for and achieved is minimizing collateral damage. And I believe the various mitigating steps that have been announced were aimed at just that objective.

I don't know what other steps the Government plans. I don't know how successful this will be. Corruption is a hydra-headed monster. Who knows what kind of backlash this will create.  Time only will tell. But for now I am giving Shri Modi an A-plus for effort and trying-- something that I cannot imagine any other political leader even dreaming about. So let us do away with the negativity and put our faith in India's leader! If he succeeds, India succeeds!