The Demonetisation Debate Shows Our Obsession With Idealism Over Facts

Posted on November 25, 2016 in Business and Economy

By Abhik Deb:

One of the most common essays almost all of us wrote as a school assignment was ‘India of my dreams’. In hindsight, it was a wonderful exercise as a child to let our imaginations spread its wings. As we grew up, our idea of India and what it should be like might have changed but it has remained a perennial figment of imagination.

Incidentally, almost via a divine interception (read PM Modi’s claim), we find ourselves being just a month away from ‘sapnon ka Bharat’. If our country can annihilate black money, it can indeed lead to a gamut of issues getting resolved. The inflow of a huge amount of money in the national economy is naturally expected to be followed by its equitable distribution, something that has been promised by successive governments. Some have merely promised while others have gone a notch higher by specifying how much money each Indian will receive.

INR 15 lakhs per person might be an admitted overstatement but receiving even some part of it will lead many among the 47% of the population without a bank account to have one. It will also lead many of the 6 crore zero balance accounts under Jan Dhan Yojana to have something to show. These beneficiaries of financial inclusion will also receive credit and debit cards from banks and we will march towards a cashless society. They will become immune to demonetisation or anything such and will ‘swipe’ their way through their ordeals. By virtue of having a healthy and running account, banks will also provide them with loans. Farmers will finally break free from the vicious cycle of moneylenders and suicides will cease to take place. The clutch on counterfeit notes is supposed to stifle funds for terrorism. In scarcity of funds, terrorism and extremism is expected to end and subsequently, Kashmir, Chhatisgarh, the North East and all such hotspots will eventually resolve their discontentment. Peace and tranquility will no longer just be words of diplomacy.

All this and much more, and it is merely a month and few days away.

Understandably, the situation is not and should not be simplified as such. But that is exactly what is being done. Our fantasy about upcoming good days often makes us oblivious about the present. The ‘greater good’ of demonetisation has overawed us in a manner that its objective analysis seems worthless. This phenomenon is not out of place. One can relate it to ‘post-truth’ – that has been adjudged ‘Word of the Year‘ by Oxford Dictionaries. The word, an adjective, is defined by Oxford Dictionary as: “Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

The triumph of the adjective over the verb might be great news for literature but when it affects policy making and politics, it becomes scary. For starters, the entire discourse takes place in the realm of aspirations, where ideation (if not propaganda) towers over experience and evidence. This is indeed a like a ‘dream’ sequence and more often than not it is the happy dream that gets sold as we love staying cocooned in its comforts. We tend to nurture it and anything that casts a shadow of doubt upon its validity is unwelcome. This restricts us from questioning it on grounds of reality. The debate around demonetisation is a near perfect analogy of this. Our reactions to the move are being linked to virtues like honesty and ability to sacrifice for nation and thus anybody questioning demonetisation is vulnerable to being demonised.

In the recent past, questions have been raised related to the GST Bill, Trump’s victory, the Bhopal jailbreak and encounter, cross-border terrorism and retaliatory measures, Najeeb’s disappearance, BCCI and the Lodha Committee’s tussle. These issues have come up, brewed storms in varying degrees and died slow deaths as demonetisation and its dreams have taken over. We are hardly concerned about issues which were our darlings merely a month ago. Will the issue of demonetisation meet a similar fate? It seems unlikely given that something as essential as money is involved here. Whether or not this dream comes true, it is logical that we document its outcome on the parameters of something as concrete as truth and not on the idealism and fanfare of post-truth.

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