Modi’s note ban will go down in history as one of the biggest failures of government policy ever to have been seen in any country ever. Not only has there been immense misery and suffering for common people across the country and irreparable economic loss, but even the announced goals of this foolish plan have not been met. Let us look at what Modi claimed to achieve and what really happened.
The unearthing of black money was the main objective of note bandi announced by Modi on Nov.8. In this his move has spectacularly failed, as was predicted by most economists and experts. Modi was foolishly expecting that black money held in cash would not be returned. Govt. officials said that anything between Rs.3-6 lakh crore would be unreturned. But all this wishful thinking has come a cropper. As per latest figures, out of the Rs.15.44 lakh crore worth of Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes that were in circulation before Nov.8, over Rs.14 lakh crore has been returned to banks by the people. Economists had indicated that a small fraction of black wealth is held in cash. Even that has been successfully recirculated by the owners using various devious means. In fact the black economy continues like before.
J&K has seen the highest number of fatalities – 266 - in terrorist violence this year since 2010. Included among these are 187 security forces personnel, the highest toll since 2008. Specifically, in the two months since the note ban took effect, this year saw 43 fatalities compared to 22 last year. In September Modi govt. carried out the so called surgical strikes against Pakistan claiming that this would curb terrorist activities in J&K. But the figures say something else: during September to December 2016, 63 people were killed in J&K including 39 security personnel. In 2015, in the same three months, 43 people were killed including 31 security personnel. Clearly, neither notebandi nor the surgical strike have succeeded in curbing terrorist activities in the trouble torn state.
In fact deaths due to all kinds of terrorist activities in the whole country (J&K, N-E, Naxalites etc.) have increased this year to 890 from 722 last year. This is a direct consequence of the Modi govt.’s short-sighted and opportunist policies based on a weird mix of power hungry opportunism and jingoism, glued together by the idea that security forces can be used as cannon fodder to quell anything and everything.
The idea that terrorists would be unable to function if new currency was introduced was blown apart when two terrorists who were shot dead on Nov 22 at Bandipore, J&K were found in possession of the new Rs.2000 notes.
This was initially touted by the govt. as one of the objectives but it was a patently ridiculous one. A study commissioned by the govt. had itself pointed out that the best estimate of fake currency in circulation was Rs.400 cr, which is about 0.2% of the total currency in circulation. The study had also said that it can be tackled by better screening at the banks. Withdrawing nearly Rs.16 lakh crore in order to find a mere 0.2% is like taking a sword to swat a fly. In any case, while there are no reports of any significant recovery of fake currency notes in the last two months, we have reports that new currency notes are already copied and are now in circulation in lakhs.
Although making India go cashless was not officially announced as an objective of demonetization, Modi himself and his ministers and supporters have been drumming this since the beginning. In a country where 76% population does not have Internet coverage and just 17% people have smartphones, it is a travesty to think that people will adopt cashless payments in any significant way. Be that as it may, to coerce people into adopting cashless transactions by the disastrous note ban is nothing short of an open attack on the lives and rights of people. More than that, it is also a way of privatization of cash transactions and allowing private companies to make a profit every time you buy something. The govt. has thus acted only in favour of big corporations in pushing this line.
One thing that was revealed by this whole exercise is that Modi is a disastrous administrator, unlike the image his supporters had hyped up about him. The whole note ban exercise was his own pet project, developed in secret by him with a team working at his residence, as if India is not a democracy but some banana republic run by a dictator. The planning was so faulty and full of holes that while people were put to enormous hardship for the past two months, those who actually had black money in cash successfully turned it into white. More than twenty changes were made in the rules as time passed. Such elementary considerations as letting farmers have cash so that they could proceed with sowing of wheat, or marriage expenses or inability of vast population to go cashless were not thought out before in this maniacal and ill-conceived zeal to implement a nonsensical plan.