BENGALURU: It’s been nearly a year since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the demonetisation scheme. It has been a year of standing in front of ATMs and hoping for a miracle, much like visiting Lord Balaji’s temple at Tirupati. A year of jokes and memes on the scheme, and tragically, a year where more than 100 people lost their lives just waiting outside ATMs for cash.
In urban India however, demonetisation has left in its wake utter chaos and pandemonium. The move has transformed regular people into economists and foreign exchange experts. Friends who have been borrowing cigarettes from me for more than a decade, are suddenly experts on FDIs and FIIs. Another set of friends have never voted in their lifetimes, their full time day job is to watch all the films on Zee Cinema everyday. Even they have been talking about ‘essential sacrifice for the greater good of the nation’.
After nearly a year, the opinion on demonetisation is split right down the middle. Those who support the move consider it the greatest human act since the invention of penicillin. Detractors of the government however, choose to kindly point out that the word itself starts with ‘demon’.
As someone who has studied economics for more than five years at college, I feel like Abhimanyu inside the chakravyuh! Armed with half-knowledge, I bravely fend off opinions from both sides. For a more informed opinion, I looked up the criticisms of the move, which I found in plenty. Ironically however, I noticed that all praise for the move came from the ruling party. It’s like the person who praises the gulab jamuns at their own party. It might be true, but seems like lip service.
Under the barrage of terms across disciplines such as economics, culture studies and philosophy, I stand clueless about the actual impact of the move on the common man. In the year gone by, I’ve come to the conclusion that demonetisation is like a modern painting hanging on the wall of an art gallery. Every person who stares at the painting comes out with their own interpretation of it.
However, to my layman mind, I noticed two distinctly clear benefits of demonetisation.One, ATM guards have begun to gain more respect than they did a year ago. In earlier days, customers would only bang on the ATM’s walls when the machine wasn’t spitting out money or receipts. A sleepy, shaggy man in a blue shirt would step out, mumble something about the machine running out of paper, and go back to sleep in the AC compartment behind the ATM machine.
In the last one year however, I’ve noticed people waving at the ATM security guards, shouting out to them, enquiring if there’s cash. In fact, the security guard near my house has been given the task of giving missed calls to people as soon as money has been deposited.
The other benefit is more personal. Due to all the talk of economics and foreign exchange, I have begun to read up on subjects I had abandoned years ago. Now, when anybody asks me for my opinion on demonetisation, I immediately invoke Modi’s call to ‘Rake in India’. I ask the person to first shell out a spanking new, demonetised `2,000 note, following which I would express my opinion. I find that the debates and discussions end rather abruptly, and on an amicable note.
(The writer is also a stand-up comedian. His first book will be out when Saudi Arabia is a secular