A toast to all my fellow Indians
The fifty days since the announcement of Demonetization was made, are nearly up. Since then we have had economists of every hue weighing in on the pros and cons and possible outcomes; politicians, mostly opposing the move, have agitated on the streets and blocked Parliament and the media has been busy chasing every morbid story that can even remotely be linked to the noteban.
But what of the ordinary Indians who have actually borne the brunt of the ban? About a fortnight ago, a Twitter poll asked which group of Indians was most irritating. I had unhesitatingly clicked on the ‘Indians in general’ option. And it’s true; we might just be the most irritating race in the world. We are loud, opiniated, argumentative and venal. We have neither civic sense nor respect for public spaces littering, spitting and peeing in public without any qualms. The less said about our traffic sense or rather lack of it, the better. We’d rather bribe our way or trade on our connections to get out of waiting our turn or paying a fine. And on a grim note, we remain deeply divided along regional, caste and religious lines.
I could go on and on. But the post-ban scenario has stood many of my notions on their head! For days on end, the same people have stood stoically in serpentine lines in a way that would put even the phlegmatic British, inured to queuing up, to shame. People who resorted to riots and arson at the slightest rumour of affront to religion or caste have staunchly resisted attempts by politicians to stir trouble by claiming victimhood. Our sense of humour and creativity has come to the fore; we have been kept entertained by an endless stream of jokes, cartoons and WhatsApp forwards. My personal favourite is the spoof on the famous Gabbar Singh dialogue ‘kitne aadmi the?’ from Sholay. And, of course, it has once again shown us the power of Indian ‘jugaad’. We have managed to carry on with the help of credit/IOUs/barter and what have you apart from the conventional credit/debit cards & mobile wallets. We have taken our fellow Indians on trust, believing that they will redeem their debts once the situation normalises. And who could have imagined the ease with which we seem to have leaped over the Digital chasm to the land of ‘less cash’ nirvana?
It has been amazing to see everyone from our autowala, sabziwala and chaatwala to Dada-Dadi, Chacha-Chachi and even chunnu- munnu and our Shantabai & Baburao take to digital payments like ducks to water. Various Govt agencies/NGOs, political leaders, bureaucrats, corporates and samaritans have taken the initiative to spread the gospel of less cash with missionary zeal. One can’t also forget the near super human contribution of our banking staff and Treasury and our law enforcement agencies. And all those responsible for getting our cash from the presses to our banks/ATMs. Yes, there have been the ungodly few among us who have tried to cheat the system but they are the exception that prove the rule. It has made me proud that when it comes to matters of National interest we can and do rise above our petty differences and personal hardships and contribute as one people. It has also been an eye opener for me that an overwhelming number of Indians would rather be honest. We only need simple, easy to comply with laws which are seen to be fairly applied to all and leaders who lead by example.
I’m not an economist so I can’t hazard a guess as to what will be the effect of demonetization on our economy. There are the other obvious effects like bringing down the drug trade, trafficking, terrorism, Maoism and counterfeiting. But apart from those, it has bound us all in a moral endeavour to forge for ourselves a more transparent, fair and equitable system.
I therefore propose a toast, “Here’s to all my fellow Indians and the success of demonetization”.
Anuradha Deolalkar, a Doctor.