e-Thoughts

‘Demonetisation, an effective tool to check corruption’

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Demonetisation has become talk of the town since last November when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that Rs 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes will no more be valid. Certainly, it requires evaluation in terms of its impact after two months. One tends to ponder if demonetisation has been a successful exercise? Perhaps, yes, writes Heera Lal, a research scholar.

But the big question is how and why? The answer of ‘how’ seems quite visible all around. There has been no public unrest except a few minor protests witnessed that too due to administrative lacunae of a few banks or cause by obvious political parties belonging related to the Opposition at Centre. Despite this, a large section of the public has supported the note-ban move, viewing it as fight against corruption. Citizens are hopeful it will yield some good results.

They appear to be aware that such a government step is one of the many steps required to curb corruption. Government officials have hinted on different occasions of more steps in the offing. This is to fulfil earlier promises made to root out corruption and providing good governance. People are expecting implementation of Benami Act as the next step.

It is a good example to prove the point regarding serial actions against corruption. But why is public supporting such a demonetisation move which created initial hardships at large. For public actors and their decisions, perhaps it is the intention behind the issues or policies that matters the most. Demonetisation is intended, as it appears to the public, to curb corruption by reducing black money for bettering the quality of citizens’ lives.

It may be pertinent to note that the Government of India has taken many steps to reduce corruption. The first step was constitution of an SIT, headed by a retired Supreme Court judge. Second, a law was passed in 2015 for disclosure of foreign black money. Other steps included, signing of agreements with many countries for sharing banking information, formulating a strict law for benami transactions in 2016 by amending it to make it more relevant, stringent and effective, the introduction of a scheme for declaring black money after paying a heavy penalty and much more.

But the fight against corruption appears on. In the above series of actions to cleanse economy of its foibles, demonetisation seems to be a part of a well chalked out plan to root out corruption. It appears aimed at helping accelerate the process of development and good governance. The move is based on old and new political promises. One can classify them as forward and backward linkages.

Backward linkages are promises made in election campaigns and steps taken to fulfil them. Forward linkages are steps coming one after another- expecting next in the chain is strict implementation of Benami Property Act as is indicated on many occasions. Hence, there is no scope for creating any confusion for anyone. This is the reason that all efforts aimed at opposing the note ban proved futile. Public is supporting the government’s move believing it will help in unearthing black money and strengthening the economy. Loosely united opposition tried to get some political mileage out of this.

But Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Pattnaik’s support to demonetisation move of the Centre, took out the critics’ steam. So far, the Opposition has been unsuccessful in substantiating their allegations of corruption against the Modi government. Thought highlighting mismanagement in distribution of new currency notes was a good point scored against the Government, terming the move as a wrongdoing and making blames of secretly leaking information to some selective individuals, weakened the Opposition’s sharpness of criticism.
It seems supporting the demonetisation move and highlighting the lacunae of inadequate or inappropriate distribution system would have helped the Opposition parties score good points and winning public support. But here too, the Opposition looked strategically ill-planned. Some prominent negatives associated with the demonetisation move of the Government are: 1 The economy would lose momentum. 2 It will hit the drive of new job generation. 3. Business related demands would reduce widely. 4. Money shortage at a particular point of time for a particular act would curtail the opportunity and adversely affect the income and growth of the masses. Above concerns have led to latest decline in the Gross Domestic Product. Some Positives: Jammu and Kashmir sees 60 per cent dip in terrorism-related violence. Hawala operations are down by 50 per cent. Two main Pakistani presses engaged in printing counterfeit Indian currency have been forced to shut shop. North Eastern insurgent groups are finding it difficult to procure arms and ammunition from across the border. Our leaders have many innovative ideas. But they do not initiate them due to different reasons. So, intentions could not convert into a reality and die as utopian ideas. The Prime Minister have mustered the required courage and took step – highly risky initiative of note ban.

The good intention behind note-ban initiative helped the process to normalise the situation in stipulated time of 50 days. This move of demonetisation is relatively a novel idea. Demonetisation was also tried in the past but not on such a big scale. This idea involved and jolted almost every citizen directly or indirectly and proved it a hit move. Indians have firm belief that black money is the root cause of many problems. They understand that demonetisation move would reduce public problems in the long run. This belief brought huge public support to this step. Corruption is hitting hard our citizens round the clock in different forms- visible or invisible, directly or indirectly. Public knows black money and corruptions are two sides of the same coin.

Striking at one side means affecting the other as well. The move to reduce and clean black money from economy is certainly going to minimise corruption. We need to understand demonetisation impacted all people in different ways reflecting the range and impact of the issue. It is a social as well as political product. Prime Minister is marketing it as a social product for convincing the masses that he is doing it to minimise their agony and target internal black money generation. Black money has been the mother of all corrupt transactions. The corruption can reduce if black money is minimised from our economy. As a result, it would help and accelerate good governance and improve citizens’ lives. Good governance is a social product. Its benefits are liked by everyone. Everybody desires to embrace good governance for going up and acquiring prosperity. It is perceived that finally demonetisation would fetch good governance to all of us.

This idea is being presented by the Government as social products to citizens. This is a potent political product from the angle of political marketing and management technique. Widespread reach of demonetisation generated a huge public awareness about black money and corruption. As the demonetisation has caused various public discussions about its different dimensions, like objective, compulsions and ideology behind it, the Modi government appears a gainer than looser. Note-ban forced the masses to learn about social evils — black money and corruption. Now, Indians are more aware than before about such important issues and many of them appear to have started believing how corruption has been a massive hurdle in the nation’s progress story.

Every crisis creates an opportunity. The forward looking positive approach of Indian citizens is converting crisis, generated by demonetisation into an opportunity. Digital India and Make in India programmes are contributing the conversion process from crisis into an opportunity. Certainly, it will push governance towards good governance. That in turn will improve citizens’ lives. The expected positive hope is compelling masses to tolerate the temporary inconvenience to support the demonetisation move in the hope of a better tomorrow of the country and countrymen. (Views expressed by author are his personal)

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