The ‘stupid common man’ is happy about the cleaning and with a masochistic smile, sipping the ‘strong tea’, to which in any case, he has become accustomed over the years.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing a rally in Ghazipur (Uttar Pradesh) on Monday, said, “My decision is a little harsh. When I was young, poor people used to ask for ‘kadak’ (strong) tea but it spoils the mood of rich.”
The prime minister has indeed served very strong tea to the people. But it is essentially spoiling the taste buds of those who had in many ways legitimised the illegitimate. While the stories of people struggling in long queues have made the headlines, those who were never part of these queues are intelligently concealing their pain. After all, their expression of dissent is illegitimate.
When did we last find a top ranking bureaucrat, a politician of some standing, a celebrity or a Porsche-driving businessman standing in the queue for an ATM? It was not that their absence ever made the news, rather it was the other way round.
It was always the common man who was seen standing there, in those long queues. Why is it that the 'harassed' lot who are smilingly bearing the brunt of the sudden demonetisation — with great dignity for the greater good — are projected as victims, when they are acting like dutiful soldiers in this battle against corruption?
Why instead we are not talking about those who are having sleepless nights, those who are calling their relatives and friends with generous offers of depositing Rs 2.5 lakh in their bank accounts.
While these people might not be profiled like the ‘60-year-old man who fainted standing the queue’, their numbers are no fewer.
Case 1: On a WhatsApp group of a family from Uttar Pradesh, with most of the members in white collar jobs and one in the civil services (details of the group were shared by one of the non-confirming members), a discussion progressed on 9 November around the topic of demonetisation. While most of the members discussed both pros and cons of the move, one among them was all resentful and dissenting. He was the one who wore the white collar with all 'civility'. The reason was clear to all the members but no one spoke of it.
Case 2: A marriage venue was shifted from a fancy and expensive heritage site in Rajasthan to a modest banquet hall in Delhi. Nobody asked the reason for the change but everyone who was informed about it could not help a wry smile.
Case 3: At an upscale eating joint in Central Delhi, a man swiped his cards many times and the beads of sweat increased on his forehead with each declined transaction. He had heard the very same morning that the income tax (I-T) department had been instructed to monitor bank accounts and report any 'abnormal' transaction. He called a friend and informed him about declined transaction and asks him to 'do something'.
These are the people who are finding this attack on their accounted wealth absurd.
These are the people who are hit hardest, but then they are using all their sophistication to hide their angst.
In a country where upari kamaai is seen as an achievement and 'just salary' is frowned upon, who in his right senses can argue against the existence of huge amounts of black money?
In August last year, CID officials raided a flat in Bengaluru owned by a Karnataka cadre IAS and found cash worth Rs 4.37 crore. Last year in a raid at the premises of former Noida chief engineer Yadav Singh, CBI sleuths found, along with documentary proof of 38 properties, Rs 10 crore in cash. A long list of such cases can be put forward to stress how corrupt government officials and politicians have hoarded crores of rupees in cash, by selling out the entire system.
The common man might be having a tough day in dealing with the cash crunch, but it is the corrupt who are having sleepless nights. And it is evident in memes and jokes on demonetisation doing the rounds on WhatsApp and Facebook.
The best humour is often designed by sad realities.
On 8 November, former Indian cricketer Virender Sehwag supported Modi’s decision and tweeted:
In America they will count Votes.
In India count Notes.
Tonight just notice d houses that dont have lights off,Note Counting On.#BlackMoney
— Virender Sehwag (@virendersehwag) November 8, 2016
In this context, it is fairly ironic that the real victims are not talked about. Sehwag’s wonderful homour was designed by the reality that the corrupt were having a gala time till 8 November.
Abhishek Waghmare, an analyst with IndiaSpend,in an article published on Firstpost,wrote, “The sudden announcement will directly affect black money hoarded by Indians, and will possibly present them two alternatives: either deposit the money after identifying themselves to banks, or exchange the money by 24 November, 2016. According to basic calculations, with a daily limit of Rs 4,000 a day, a maximum of Rs 60,000 can be exchanged by a person, in 15 days from 10 November to 24 November. From 24 November onwards, the exchange process will be eased for convenience, meaning the exchange limit will be increased. However, there is no limit on deposits”.
He added, “As the deadline for Indian individuals to declare undisclosed income — the Income Declaration Scheme — ended on 30 September, 2016, no 'unaccounted for' money can be declared now. It ceases to be money; instead it will be a 'worthless piece of paper', as (Modi) termed it in his speech”.
The extent of unaccounted wealth and black money is vast and it is no secret. Given this fact, just focusing on the problems faced by the people in the implementation of the demonetisation, and calling for its withdrawal is a perfect case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.