What Modi Govt’s Bold Economic Move Means For India’s Most Vulnerable

Posted on November 9, 2016 in Politics

By Shambhavi Saxena for Cake:

At 8 p.m. on Nov 8 2016, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that ₹500 and ₹1000 notes would cease to be legal tender at midnight. The point? To flush out black money, meaning any cash in circulation that has been acquired through less than fair means.

A bold move like this has received praise from several quarters, including the President Pranab Mukherjee, because it will create a huge impact on people who deal with black money in, say, real estate.

In the span of four hours, a whole lot of stuff was said about the move: that it would do nothing for money that existed as jewellery, land, or in offshore accounts; that India had already gone through this in the ’70s; that it hadn’t done very much even then. And it took virtually no time for eateries, bars and jewellers to “cash in” on the sudden panic, by advertising that they were still accepting high-value notes till midnight.

All holders of Indian currency notes have been instructed to exchange their high value cash at banks or post offices, but they must have valid government-issued ID proof to do so. And while it may seem reasonable on the surface, in a country like India, identification documents can also be something of a privilege. Which is why this move is going to have a very severe impact on large tracts of the population.

Almost as soon as the news broke last night, Twitter user and activist Amba Azaad drew attentions towards the biggest pitfalls of this economic decision:

Cash works in interesting ways in India. Some of us are frequent users of money managing apps like PayTM or Freecharge, and often make cashless transactions online or by card. But we are an extremely privileged minority. And we won’t really feel the pinch. But Azaad has compiled a list of people who will.

And others have also highlighting glaring concerns:

Azaad’s list comprises of those populations that are already vulnerable, and worse still, are invisible to those of us who can afford to complain on Twitter or debate in newsrooms. A bold move, yes. But perhaps a knee-jerk one. And that may have been the point. But there are simply far too many social factors that prevent many of these vulnerable groups from following the government’s instructions. One hopes the government is aware of these limitations and plans to address them immediately.

This article was first published here on Cake


Image source: Getty Images.