By Apoorv Shandilya:
On November 8, the demonetisation scheme was dramatically announced on national television by PM Narendra Modi. It seemed like a bold step by the government and took everyone by surprise. All ₹500 and ₹1000 notes were banned and fresh notes of ₹500 and ₹2000 notes were distributed. People were allowed to change their old notes through banks up until a certain date and the withdrawal limit was ₹2000 for a long time. Not just that, there have been many changes and modifications of bank rules by the government since then.
The RBI notification released on November 8 said that the purpose of demonetisation is “to tackle counterfeiting Indian banknotes, to effectively nullify black money hoarded in cash and curb funding of terrorism with fake notes.” From standing in long lines at the ATMs to banks being overcrowded with people waiting to get their old notes changed – there has been a lot of chaos since then. Due to a sudden scarcity of cash, those who have the means started making cashless transactions through Paytm, debit cards, etc. The poor people were the most adversely affected and at least 90 deaths have been attributed to the unplanned implementation of the scheme.
Consequently, what seemed like a move that would eradicate corruption at the outset, is now being questioned. People are in a state of confusion as to whether the outcome will be worth the chaos or not, considering that not all the black money that exists is available in cash.
After a month of demonetisation, after criticism regarding the implementation started kicking in, the whole idea of making India a cashless economy came to the fore. While this sounds like a rightful measure, the timing at which the government started encouraging cashless modes of transactions was questioned by many.
To encourage students going cashless, a new scheme called Vittiya Saksharta Abhiyan, Visaka has been started. According to an HRD Ministry note, “Directors of all institutions should ensure that the necessary credit in academics for project work is given to the student volunteers of Visaka.”
While one can’t predict the result of the numerous schemes that have been launched in the recent past, these schemes can certainly be critiqued and debated upon. Hence, I tried to find out what people from my University, Christ University, felt about Visaka.
Father Abraham, pro Vice-Chancellor of the University came out in support of the move and told TOI, “Students are capable of taking forward such technological advances. They know this better than us, and can perhaps even teach us the same. It’s a good move.”
However, not everyone shares the same opinion. A student of the University said, “I feel that the move to give incentives in the form of extra credits for promoting a scheme goes against basic principles- it reeks of propaganda and to ‘use’ college students for it is extremely problematic.”
Extra credits might make sure that the idea of a cashless, transparent economy falls into place. Why would any student reject the idea? Who doesn’t want extra credits? But is offering extra credits as bait, alright? Another student commented, “The Government is on shaky ground, ethically. It’s passing off a policy decision as a fact; that our country is cashless, due to demonetisation as well, and that’s great.”
A friend from the University brought up a very important point, “It is rather odd for a country like ours to talk about India going cashless in such a positive light without acknowledging how it is not just about people learning the process but also gaining access to it.” The internet is a prerequisite for most cashless transactions. I wondered who would truly benefit from a cashless economy when not even half the population has access to the internet.
Some also believe that one should ideally follow what the government says. I asked multiple people but it seems like students of the University have been given no directions regarding the scheme as of now.