Anil Bokil is an engineer by profession and the founder of Arthkranti NGO. He has been working for and propagating cashless transactions for the past 20 years. Bokil had met Narendra Modi when he was the chief minister of Gujarat in August 2013 and had spoken to him on demonetisation. He has come to the limelight again after Modi announced the demonetisation policy on 8 November. The idea of demonetisation is widely believed to be Bokil's brainchild and on the topic of the country completing 50 days of the exercise, Bokil spoke to Firstpost. Edited excerpts follow:
There are talks of demonetisation being a failure. What are your thoughts?
How can something that's still ongoing be a failure? Demonetisation is a process that's on and to call it a failure would be wrong. Politicians may gave it various tags, some party will claim it's a success, others may declare it a failure. But I am not a politician, I am an economist. According to me, demonetisation was a much-needed move.
Opposition parties have claimed that only the common man can be seen in the long queues and that no big businessmen or politicians have ever been seen in the queues. What do you think has led to this perception?
It's not about rich men or poor men standing in queues. The important thing is that the money that was earned through unfair means has to get into the banks. All the unaccounted cash has to enter the economy and only that will help the poor. As far as standing in queues is concerned, I agree that some rich people could have invented ways to get their money deposited or old notes exchanged, but I can tell you that if they have done anything wrong, they will get caught. It's not as easy to cheat the system as you think.
How do you think demonetisation has or will help the economy?
The economy had excess cash and most of that cash was unaccounted-for money. This extra cash in the economy was of no help to either the government or the people. Demonetisation is an effective decision because it has reduced the black money from the cash in circulation. Demonetisation is what you call a dynamic balancing of an economy. I have been a supporter of a cashless economy for the past 16 years.
RBI issued a number of notification in the 50 days period since 8 November. Do you think RBI was completely prepared for demonetisation?
Economics is not material science or rocket science, it's social science. When one is dealing with society and social science, changes have to be brought in keeping in mind the current state of affairs. The RBI kept introducing new notifications to ease the pain of masses and to make demonetisation more effective.
I read in an interview (given by you) that the government did not implement all your recommendations on demonetisation. Do you think that your advice should have been taken by the government?
I haven't advised anyone and I don't think I need to. The problem is that people stashed cash in their homes and that money never got into the economy. This money was of no use to anyone. What demonetisation will do is that it will encourage digital payment and that would encourage people to keep the cash in banks instead of hiding it in their homes. That money would be of use to everyone as there can be transparency in the economy through digital payments.
Some eminent economists and politicians like Dr Manmohan Singh and P Chidambaram have said that demonetisation will wreak havoc on the country's GDP? What's your view on it?
People must understand that demonetisation is not a tonic but a remedy. The purpose of demonetisation is not to boost the economy. It's objective is to right the wrong that has been plaguing the the economy for a long time.
But people, even tax-paying and law-abiding citizens have had to face hardships to get their own cash, what do you have to say on this?
Look at it this way. Now that the 50-day period is over, the government has increased the withdrawal limit to Rs 4,500 a day from Rs 2,500. India is a country, where 70 percent of the population survives on Rs 150 a day. And I am not the one giving these numbers, it's the figure released by the World Bank. So I don't really see how the problem should continue now that the withdrawal limit has been increased.
Do you really think that demonetisation can really curb corruption? If yes, how?
As I mentioned earlier, demonetisation will encourage transparency. Let me tell you that, this is the beginning of the cleaning up of the economy. It's an initial step. More steps are required but this is a good beginning. Demonetisation will also help to end trafficking and of all kinds. The benefits are long lasting and deep.
Will Rs 2,000 notes be banned in the future?
The Rs 2000 note is only a stopgap arrangement and it will be withdrawn after the availability of cash in banks and ATMs. But nobody can predict when in the future the Rs 2000 notes will be withdrawn. Speaking of the relevance of higher denomination notes, in the future, notes of Rs 500 and 1,000 will also not be required.
Rs 50 notes will be enough to fulfil the role of cash in the economy.
But as I said earlier, nobody is sure when will that day come.
There are reports of 80 deaths caused due to demonetisation, some of which are attributed to the long queues. Do you think that demonetisation can be blamed for claiming these lives?
There needs to be an inquiry into the deaths attributed to demonetisation. It's very unfortunate that some people died while waiting in the queues, but to blame demonetisation for these deaths would be wrong. There can be many reasons for the deaths, some might have died due to old age, however, it's very unfortunate.
What's your view on the prime minister?
This prime minister (Narendra Modi) is taking responsibility, he told the nation about demonetisation and said that he needs the help of the nation for 50 days. Now that the 50 days are over, he has taken the responsibility to improve the situation and I am sure he will.
Have you met the prime minister after the demonetisation decision was announced by him?
No, not at all. I have neither spoken to the prime minister nor has anybody from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has had any dialogue with us. Everything we want to say on demonetisation, we say it through media and I have observed that they are taking notes of our opinion. We are happy. Arthkranti is non political NGO and our interest area is the welfare of 125 crore citizens of India. But in the last 50 days, the media has played a crucial role. They have gone to every sector to find their view on demonetisation. But yes, Mera desh badal raha hai (my country is changing)… cash se digital…
Updated Date: Jan 03, 2017 13:37 PM