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Demonetisation Crusade

V P Jain
Modi government loves moral crusades. Off and on, the country becomes galvanised
in attempting to restore some long lost ethical values- be it Ghar- Vapsi, restoring the
dignity of the sacred cow, cleansing the universities of the extremist elements and
the swachh Bhatat abhiyan. Demonetisation, the mother of all such endeavours,
which has gripped the nation, is to make business completely honest. When Italian
police burst in on the corrupt way back in 1992, the anti-corruption magistrates had
gone on to arrest more than a thousand top businessmen, civil servants and
politicians. According to Hemmingway the rich are no different from us: they simply
have more money and that is fascinating. But we also despise them, since we see
them no better than the rest of us and undeserving of any special consideration, and
it secretly delights when they go broke or wind up in jail, or suffer some other
disaster. The serpentine crowds at the banks, exasperate and irascible, are putting up
a brave face and enduring the most appalling sufferings (in vain though) hoping to
watch a similar spectacle of cuff-linked business tycoons, corrupt politicians and
supercilious babus led off in handcuffs in full view of the television camera crews.
But that is only wishful thinking and sounds more like waiting for Godot. Instead,
what we are witnessing here is a grotesque manifestation of humanity: thousands
and thousands of people of the marginalised sections of the society are slogging to
help the rich stay rich. Demonetisation has stripped tens of thousands of workers of
their livelihood as small manufacturing units have closed down due to cash crunch.
That the crusade continues to fascinate is obvious from a growing sense of wonder at
its achievements the protagonists would have us believe. The crusaders are invoking
the maxim that war is, sometimes, necessary to attain peace, suffering as a means to
achieve justice could accord with divine providence. After all Christ had suffered
and was crucified to redeem mankind of its sins.
In the weeks following demonetisation, the IT department and the ED have seized
sizable amount of laundered money in the form of new currency notes. But this is
only the tip of the proverbial shadow economys iceberg. The shadow economy is
deeply entrenched in the system, and has, after an initial shock, bounced back with
vengeance. If state intrusiveness and the much despised inspector raj was the
solution to the scourge of black money, then why the disdainful tragedy of
demonetisation. The high tide of this new puritanism, like the earlier ones (but not
before taking its toll), is fast losing its sheen, and will soon pass as the resilient
shadow economy continues to bounce back, with all the dirty money laundered and
padded with neat lining of freshly printed new currency notes. The chivalric theatre
masks many awful atrocities: in this interlude, Indian pursuit of life, liberty and
human happiness have been suspended, an unmitigated disaster, and it will be at
their own peril to lose sight of this picture.

The singular service that demonetisation and the follow up raids have done is to
remove the widespread misconception that the politicians, the bureaucrats and the
police are corrupt.