NEW DELHI: Eminent names from the political and the academic world explore the entire spectrum of demonetisation in a new book which gives a fresh perspective to the debate on whether the move was a right one for the country.
"Demonetisation in the Detail" is a volume of 12 essays edited by veteran journalist H K Dua and brought out by Palimpsest Publishers.
According to Dua, not one democratic country has ever opted for demonetisation as a cure for its economy.
"Demonetisation is not free from the law of diminishing returns, which seems to have already set in. The drive for digitisation of the economy may suffer because the digital divide will remain acute for some decades, given the reach and quality of our education system," he writes in the introduction 'Demonetisation: The Jury is Still Out'.
He says the worse damage demonetisation has done is to the job market, particularly in the informal sector.
"In small-scale industries and in grain mandis, in the absence of work, labourers had to leave their villages, which in any case didn’t have employment to offer," Dua writes.
"Months later, the evil of black money doesn't seem to have eradicated. No property developer has been hauled up by the authorities, money-based politics is still as rampant as corruption. There is no let-up in terrorist attempts to unsettle India either," he adds.
The book, Dua says, contains "serious articles - for and against - aided by the perspective gained after the dust had somewhat settled".
Noted economist Arun Kumar, in his essay 'Demonetisation 2016: Little Impact on the Black Economy', says there has been little political fallout of the move and its aftermath in spite of the hardships the public had to face.
He is of the view that the opposition parties could not "mount a concerted campaign" explaining the true nature of demonetisation.
"The public at large seems to have accepted that the government was serious about tackling black money, which is the scourge of the country. Some said that the prime minister has levelled the ground between the rich and the poor because the former also had to stand in the queues outside the banks," he writes.
Kumar also says that anyone who opposed demonetisation was branded by the ruling party as having black money.
"Since no one wishes to be labelled so, the political parties have hesitated to go the whole hog in opposing demonetisation," he says.
Political scientist Zoya Hasan sees demonetisation as a weapon Narendra Modi used to achieve his political aims.
"The demonetisation decision was principally aimed at casting Modi as an anti-corruption crusader and setting the stage for the 2019 parliamentary elections with the BJP completely taking over the anti-corruption platform," she writes in "Demonetisation and the Wages of Nationalism".
"Despite the severe impact of the currency ban on the population, the BJP was not hurt by it; as a matter of fact, the Modi government emerged unscathed and unhurt.
"There is every reason to be concerned that if the government could get away with such an irrational decision, it could impose many more such drastic decisions without having to worry about popular disapproval of the consequences of its actions," she writes.
Noted economist Bibek Debroy calls demonetisation part of a broader game plan for a systemic clean up.
"The November 8 decision was only a trigger and the beginning of a process. The institutional cleansing is going to be a long haul. It should not be judged in terms of a narrow cost-benefit calculus that is purely economic.
"I think people generally, unlike specialist commentators, understood this. This is the reason that across surveys, there has been broad-based support," he writes.
According to CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury, demonetisation played havoc with the lives of millions of Indians, while Congress leader Manish Tewari says Modi’s ‘Tughluqi firman’ made people suffer for no fault of theirs.
The case for demonetisation is made by Anil Bokil, chairman of Pune-based pro-RSS economic think tank ArthaKranti, who calls the move e-monetisation, through a number of charts and various data.
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu says the "move, which was not an easy one to take, unfolded a vista of opportunities and benefits".
"Demonetisation provided a unique opportunity for the Indian Railways to move towards a cashless paradigm, fuelled by digital transactions," he writes in his essay titled 'Indian Railways in the Demonetised Era'.