Being Out Of Cash And Out Of Choice In A Democracy

Posted by sapnasharma in Business and Economy, Society
January 17, 2017

Changing calendars in January every year makes me realize that the year is new indeed – but the memories and experiences of the past year still linger on, and will continue to do so. And speaking of 2016, I guess demonetisation has created a space for itself in the hearts and minds of each and every individual, without which any account of 2016 seems incomplete.

Recently, after having come across an analysis, by Maadhyam, of the responses by various ministries on the questions on demonetisation put forth in the Parliament, I feel it relevant and timely to raise my concerns on the issue.

 My first encounter with the impact of demonetisation came as I received news of a close friend of mine suffering from high blood pressure, and, at the same time, learning about demonetisation for the first time . At that time, I could hardly understand her predicament. Later, I learnt that after two days, she had to go back to her place of employment – which turned out to be a village in far-off Uttar Pradesh – and realized that her concerns about not having sufficient cash at the moment were actually real.

Today, no one can deny the impact that the word “demonetisation” has had on the lives of people in the past year – be it the long queues before banks/ATMs at odd hours (before they are declared to be “out of cash”) or the mental distress and insecurity faced by the common man from every strata, throughout this phase, due to the non-availability of cash.

In this context, the analysis highlights the denial of the government – when asked about their study on the impact of demonetization on different sectors of economy. Saying that it is “too early to infer the impact, or no impact, at all” clearly puts questions on the vision with which the government flagged off this policy. Is it rather not too early to implement it? How many of us were even aware of this term before 8th November, 2016? Forget about being ‘easy’ while dealing with it!

‘Incentivising’ cashless transactions seems to be a way out for the government. But shouldn’t it a matter of choice – based on convenience, and not of any sort of compulsion? And of course, ‘convenience’ differs from person to person. There are so many apprehensions about the security issues in digital transactions – even among the well equipped and educated lot, who have spent a large part of their lives without having a smart phone in their pockets! I count my father too in that category.  

Far from being concerned about the adequacy and reliability of the existing infrastructure for digital transactions, and instead, alluring people by announcing cash prizes on digital transactions – the government seems to be more bent on marketing an idea, rather than running a democracy. If the move conveniences the people, incentives really don’t matter – just as water always flows along/with the slope naturally.  

The question, here, is not of being in favour of or against demonetisation, as understood by many, but that of getting doubts resolved and the people’s interests secured – people, who are actually facing the consequences of such a crucial step. As per the said analysis, for example, there seems to be no information available with the government, on the unemployment/distress caused due to demonetisation in the unorganized sectors of the economy. Thus, not surprisingly, the fate of daily wage earners stands jeopardized.

All this only points towards the unpreparedness and somewhat casual attitude of the government towards determining the impact of demonetisation, in order to, instead, hastily chase some alluring, long term economic benefits.  

But after having experienced the cash-crunch for over two months, we are no longer naive of the concept and can put forth our concerns and doubts before the government – as a step towards making the whole process inclusive, at our end, with the help of platforms like Maadhyam. Just to make the next calendar-changing exercise relatively happier…

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Maadhyam is envisioned as a participatory policy making tool. Please find the analysis of Parliamentary Questions on Demonetization by Maadhyam. You can also check the other initiatives launched by Maadhyam by following their Facebook page here.

 

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