If Narendra Modi's demonetisation drive isn't successful, it's down to our cynicism

It's misplaced, but it exists. We have this inordinate cynicism about the removal of corruption. With the central government's demonetisation drive about to complete its second anniversary next month, the army of doom and gloom is increasing its numbers.

We hear people saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi cannot eliminate corruption, and how his whole exercise is not worth a spit in the wind, because the crooks and the charlatans, the hundis and the hawalas, the gangsters and the hoarders will all be back collecting bribes in a couple of months, just wait and see.

The "wait and see" is said with a certain ill-concealed glee, as if we would be disappointed in case the fruits from the poisoned tree were actually squashed.

Narendra Modi. AFP

Narendra Modi. AFP

I am not pro-Modi or anti-Modi, but I have just been thinking, what the heck, why are so many of us detracting from the herculean effort? No one else ever did it.

Though there are many hiccups and flaws, and we can point to all of them and exult in the mess, the fact is that the man has gone out on a limb and done something. Look at it this way: World War II lasted five years; many a battle was lost before the Allies pushed the Axis powers into a corner; many strategies were changed mid-way, campaigns reworked, troops repositioned. Nothing happened according to some preordained master plan.

Often they bumbled along, hoping for a break. England was one night away from considering surrender after the brutal Battle of Britain, Rommel thought his Afrika Korps would singlehandedly destroy the Allies, Japan blasted Pearl Harbor and let the US into a war it did not want to enter.

Modi too is at war. In a way, all of us are the troops. It is a massive undertaking and he needn't have done it at all. But he has set the ball rolling and it is gathering speed.

That his PR machinery is weak and rickety and totally eclipsed by the mainstream media is a tragedy. Large sections of this mainstream media has found comfort in projecting Modi's mission as having failed. If the prime minister has failed at anything, it's in his inability to share the message effectively with the public. When you do something so drastic, you don't put timelines on it. That was the one big mistake, because it was easily exploitable. Every time a correction has been made or a deadline reworked, we have screamed foul and mocked this as evidence of the BJP frontline groping in the dark.

"They do not know what they are doing, they have changed the deadline again!" This is now a mantra.

No one second guessed when the Vietnam War would end. Nobody in 1971 said we will have Pakistan surrender in the East by 16 December.

But we are doing the death dance over the 31 December deadline and getting all pointy fingered again.

Be fair. Public suffering and long queues have reduced; the discomfort is abating. Even at the worst of times, Indian resilience kicked in and the poor whose suffering has been sculpted into a sledgehammer hung in there. The anger that we, the media, showcase is only triggered by our highlighting scuffles. If things were indeed that bad, there would have been riots across the board.

The public took it on the chin; they are nowhere near being stirred into a rebellion, so lets not exaggerate their rage.

Point two: Millions of jobs have been lost. Really? Greedy bosses may have closed down their small scale and cottage industries and not paid their labour force by shrugging and claiming no cash, but they are going to open doors again and the slack will be pulled in because now that the cash flow has commenced, there is no cause to shut the companies. So, millions of jobs are not lost, just temporarily frozen.

Finally, point three: The filthy rich are happy bunnies. They have escaped the net. Not true. They may not confess it or even show it, but the underground is hurt, mortally hurt. The rich have been slapped in the fiscal face. This money did not fall from the skies, it belonged to someone who had concealed it. Hidden wealth has been discovered, so let's not make it less than it is.

Oh, these guys are so smart they will make it again? Fine, let them start from zero, and if you want the truth, they can get going if you and I let them get going. If we become customers to the corrupt, what price on Modi or anyone else winning the war?

He will lose. Thanks to us.

Like I said, why are so many of us so confident that corruption is in our DNA and why do we speak of it with such misplaced pride.


Published Date: Dec 28, 2016 05:54 pm | Updated Date: Dec 28, 2016 06:02 pm


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