Assault on black money gets public nod but leaders unhappy

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Bank employees count old 500 Indian rupee banknotes inside a bank in Jammu

The surgical strike on black money following Prime Minister’s announcement nullifying 500 and 1,000 notes has been received gleefully and common people are cheering the move, but many leaders are complaining. Some leaders have even sought inquiry into allegations that ruling Bharatiya Janata Party had prior information as there was surge in transactions in bullion, foreign exchange and securities prior to demonetisation. Little doubt that the Narendra Modi -led government would have to brace for a stormy winter. However, the government must keep in mind that if winter comes can spring be far behind?

Going by long queues outside banks, at ATMs and protests across the country, it appears that neither the Finance Ministry nor the Reserve Bank of India had an inkling of the nightmare that was to follow. Similarly, the people had not prepared themselves for the inconveniences unfolding day after day since the “surgical strike” on black money. The need for usable currency for daily necessities continues asserting unabated with many raising noise over the mayhem at financial institutions.

The sudden withdrawal of about 85 percent of the currency has created problems, some perhaps avoidable, which has invited the political attention of leaders like Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal, Mayawati, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mamta Banerjee and her bête noire Sitaram Yechury. However, the anti-corruption crusader, Anna Hazare, has supported the Modi government move and so have chief ministers of Bihar and Odisha, Nitish Kumar and Naveen Patnaik. Besides Modi, Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley and BJP chief Amit Shah have tried to silence critics. However, political rhetoric is the least one can expect in such situations when elections in many states are round the corner. But by and large, people have heeded Modi’s call to be patient for 50 days. Also all credit to bank employees who rose to the occasion at a time when the nation wanted them the most.

It is natural to question whether the government could have handled the switchover in a more organised manner. Many ATMs were shut as these had not been calibrated to handle the new currency notes. Small businesses, especially those that deal with perishable goods like milk and vegetables, rickshaw-pullers and daily-wage labourers are the ones who feel the real pain. Rural areas, ill-served by banks and ATMs, are facing the brunt of the shortage of cash for their daily needs. Left to fend for themselves, these sections are at a huge disadvantage. Had the Modi government done a little more homework for these sections, the move would have won hands down!

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