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Demonetisation of High Indian Currency Note – Was it really a masterstroke?

As per the notification issued by the present Indian Government, with effect from midnight of 8th November 2016, existing High Indian Currency Notes having the denomination of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 (which accounts for almost 86% of the currency) ceases to hold its status as legal tender. In simple terms, existing Indian Currency Notes of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 are banned from the said date, and hence, these notes are not valid for any kind of monetary transactions like receipts and payments i.e. the transaction value of these currency notes is henceforth Nil. However, keeping in mind the convenience of the citizens, the central government has notified certain services/products/organisations like hospitals, petrol pumps/gas stations, etcetera, wherein for specified transactions, Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 currency notes shall be accepted, until the date specified by the government.

It’s indeed a historic step taken by the present government and majority of the citizens, irrespective of the temporary inconvenience encountered at their end, are happy and stand with the government in this move. The common men, the experts, the economists, as well as, a lot many of the learned and respected persons across the globe have opined their views in favour of this move and expressed it as a drastic step taken by the present Indian Government in the fight against black money.

However, in this “viral addictive” world, it’s highly important to analyse, with an open mindset, that all the information circulated around us is absolutely correct or not. Likewise, we need to analyse whether this step of demonetisation is really going to have a larger and futuristic impact, “as claimed from every direction”? Was it really a masterstroke or did the government somewhere missed the opportunity to hit a home run? So guys, keep your thinking caps on, while we try to find out the answers to all such questions and rest be assured that this blog is surely going to serve you with a healthy food of thought and will indeed be an eye opener.

First of all, let us find out that why the Indian Government has taken this step of demonetisation of High Indian Currency Notes? – On the eve of 8th November 2016, the Pradhan Sevak, Mr. Narendra Damodar Modi, in his historic and crystal clear speech, conveyed all the information with regard to demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 currency notes and explained every minute detail. At the outset, he deserves a big applause for such a good speech. Further, addressing the nation, Mr. Pradhan Sevak, informed the three major reasons behind opting for demonetisation of the high currency notes i.e. 1) Corruption, 2) Black Money, and 3) Terrorism.

Hence, in the subsequent paragraphs of this blog, we will analyze demonetisation of high currency notes in light of the above mentioned three reasons and try to understand that how effective the demonetisation step will be in addressing those three issues:-

1) Corruption – In order to understand the impact of demonetisation of high currency notes on corruption, let’s first divide corruption into pre and post demonetisation period i.e. corruption that has already taken place before demonetisation and corruption that is going to take place after demonetisation of High Indian Currency Notes.

a) Corruption before demonetisation – All the cases of corruption that has occurred on or before the midnight of 8th November 2016 falls in this list. I am sure every sane mind will agree that we can’t undo anything that has already been done in the past (unless and until there is a secret time machine existing on planet earth). So, the corruption that has already been done in the past can’t be undone by merely demonetisation of currency notes, because of the simple reason that the money has already travelled from the hands of the sufferer into the hands of the corrupt individual.

Now, a valid question might pop up in your mind that although the past corruption cases could not be undone, as well as, the sufferers could not gain any benefit from this step, but, wouldn’t just by demonetisation of high currency notes the money that is lying in the hands of the corrupt people will automatically turn into scrap, and, in this way, help in fighting corruption? Herewith, I would urge you to park this question in your mind for some time, because the answer to this question is available in the point number 2 on Black Money.

b) Corruption after demonetisation – All the cases of corruption that are going to take place post-midnight of 8th November 2016 falls under this list. Now, please don’t accuse me of being so optimistic about corruption. On the contrary, don’t we all know that “occurrence of corruption” is a hard-core reality and it is bound to occur even after demonetisation of high currency notes? So, the big question is that what will be the impact of demonetisation on the future corruption cases?

Since demonetisation is a one-time cleansing activity which will make the existing high currency notes ineffective, so it won’t have a larger role to play in curbing future corruption cases, as well. At the most it can have a short-term impact on the mindset of corrupt people, but, as and when the new high currency notes are easily available in the market, the corruption will once again catch its pace.

On the contrary, the absence of High Currency Notes in an economy could have a larger impact on the “occurrence of corruption” in any country. The logic behind it is that transactions on account of illegitimate deals and corrupt demands mostly get materialize by transfer of funds in high currency notes. So, there is a fair chance that if there are no high denomination currencies notes available in a country then the graph of corruption might decline substantially. Thus, the absence of high currency notes could play a major role, in at least curbing the corruption, if not eradicating it completely. This is the very reason which has compelled most of the developed nations to ban high currency notes in their respective nations.

Now, the present government somewhere missed this golden opportunity to curb the future corruption cases because even though they focused on demonetising the existing high currency notes, but, at the same time, they went a step further and issued new higher denomination Indian Currency Note of Rs. 2000, along with the new currency note of Rs. 500 and further propose to issue the new currency note of Rs. 1000, as well, in near future. Now, this step of once again issuing the high denomination notes is contradicting the very purpose of curbing the corruption cases which materializes by means of high currency notes. This move of the government has once again left the doors open for future corruption to enter in our economy and this time on a much larger scale.

Solution to curb Corruption – Although, the high denomination currency notes help in ease of monetary transactions, however, at the same time, it comes with a very high risk of flourishing corruption in the economy. Thus, if at all, the government intends to curb the future corruption in the country then all the high denomination currency notes should be banned, until the time a technology is devised which either makes it impossible to replica the notes or else makes it possible to track each and every single currency notes issued in the country. Further, we should strive to move towards a paperless currency in near future.

2) Black Money – The second reason, as provided by the government, for opting the demonetisation step is black money. By this step, the government is projecting that the black money holder will either keep holding the black money or destroy it, which will eventually turn it into scrap, or else, the black money will come out in the economy. Indeed, there is no argument on the point that under the current circumstances, only these two outcomes are possible for the black money that is held in high currency notes and there is no third possibility available.

Now, if we analyse both the possible outcomes, we will realize that, as far as, the first outcome is concerned there is not much to worry about as the transaction value of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 note is already Nil, and, as such, holding or destroying the currency notes won’t affect the economy much. However, the real problem arises with the second outcome i.e. when black money starts coming out in the economy. The biggest concern with this outcome is the channel through which this black money will enter the economy. Needless to say that there is no problem when the black money is routed through legitimate means i.e. after paying taxes, penalties and complying with other legal formalities. But, it’s a known fact that those opting for the legitimate route (if at all) will be meagre in number, while the majority will resort to the illegitimate means of converting black money into white and, thereby, flushing the black money into the economy.

Hence, no one can discard the fact that the major chunk of black money is going to be routed through illegitimate routes only. Now, assuming that majority of the ‘liquid’ black money is held in high currency note, the real challenge that is posed in front of any economy is to keep a check on the means from where the black money could be pumped into our economy, especially in circumstances like demonetisation of high currency notes. At the same time, it should also be kept in mind that not much time should be made available for the black money holders to convert their black money into white. So, as and when, a country opts for drastic steps like demonetisation to curb black money, the importance of keeping a check and control ‘beforehand’ on all such means from where the black money could be converted into white money should be given extra weight-age, because any loop-hole on this front could ultimately hamper the very purpose of demonetisation. Herewith, I would like to clarify that beforehand check and control means stopping the activities to occur at the first stage, rather than taking corrective actions.

Now, on this front, the present government has missed the bus. The holders of black money got enough time, as well as, mean to dispose of the black money in their possession. Just to throw some light on this, I would like to draw your attention towards the incidences that happened after the notification for demonetisation was issued from government’s end. As a matter of fact, the government notified the nation at around 8 P.M. about banning the high currency notes with effect from midnight of 8th November 2016. Thus, on an average, the time left was less than 4 hours for black money holders to materialize the deals. However, it is interesting to note that the jewellery shops did ‘record’ business post this notification and some of the jewellery shops are claimed to have remained open till 4 A.M. of 9th November 2016. This denotes that although the transaction value of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 currency notes post-midnight of 8th November 2016 is Nil, but still, monetary transactions are taking place in high currency notes, right in front of the eyes of the government. This simply means that even though all these transactions are illegal, yet the government made no attempt to stop them “at their source”.

Will the Income tax raids on selective business groups/shops, post happening of the transactions, in any way, going to help in catching all the black money holders?  If banks could be kept closed for one day for preparedness with respect to demonetisation, wasn’t it in nation’s interest to be extra vigilant and close all those businesses wherein the black money held in high currency notes was supposed to be expended like jewellery shops, etcetera? Why were they allowed to transact post-midnight of 8th November 2016? This is the biggest loophole, of which the black money holders took advantage and flushed the black money into the economy. And further to this, since the government has notified the time frame available to change/deposit the high currency notes of almost 50 days (as of now), so there is still enough time available for the black money to get pumped in our economy through ‘illegitimate’ channels. It’s not hidden from anyone that till date monetary transactions (other than those notified by the government) are taking place in our economy, with Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 currency notes because of the simple reason that there is still time available for getting them changed/deposited in the bank accounts. The government should have warned the citizens that all the monetary transactions (other than those specifically notified by the government) that take place by exchange of Rs. 500 or Rs. 1000 currency notes are illegal and should be dealt with seriously.

Herewith, I would also like to draw your attention to one more point that, as far as, means to route black money into banking channels is concerned, other than the mostly used measures like purchase of precious commodities, real estate, jewellery, hawala transactions, etcetera, this time there is a high probability of black money channelizing through all those bank accounts which were opened under “Jan Dhan Yojana”. Although, the “Jan Dhan Yojana” is indeed a very good initiative by the present government for financial inclusion to ensure access to financial services for all those people who were earlier deprived of these channels, but still there is a high chance that now all these bank accounts might be used as a means of channelizing black money. The black money holders will surely be eyeing on all these accounts, for converting their black money into white money, especially in the light of the government’s clarification that amount deposited up to Rs. 2.5 Lacs in single accounts would not be questioned much. Similarly, a lot of black money could get pumped in the name of agriculture income, donations received by charitable institutions, NGO’s, etcetera. So, this is also a big challenge to monitor black money that gets routed into the economy through these channels. Above all, the current bandwidth of any investigation agency is not enough to scrutinize the details of all the bank accounts and post bank accounts.

Solution to curb Black Money – In order to curb black money, by way of demonetisation, two of the most important things to be focused on, are the time and means available with the black money holders for converting the black money into white money. The interesting thing to note here is that if there will be no time available to convert the black money into white money, all the means to channelize the black money into white money will automatically get ineffective and there is a high probability that the majority of the liquid black money held in high currency notes will get scrapped, on its own. Having said that, the real challenge that will pose in such situation is that how to tackle the conversion of high currency notes held in the hands of honest citizens, because these high currency notes will be required to be converted into small denomination notes and for that reasonable time needs to be given to the citizens of the nation.

So, as far as, time is concerned the government is left with not much option because they have to give reasonable time to the citizens for changing/depositing the cash-in-hand available with them in high denomination currency notes. Hence, the hard-core reality is that after demonetisation step, the black money can’t be stopped in totality from entering the banking channels. Thus, the only option left with the government now is to engage the entire machinery in monitoring and controlling the means from where the black money could be routed, so that at least the amount of black money that is entering into the economy could be restricted to the bare minimum.

3) TerrorismHawala transactions and counterfeit currency notes are two of the major sources of fund for terrorism in the country. Supposing that majority of the funding for terrorism takes place in high denomination currency notes, demonetisation of these notes will automatically break the nexus and, in turn, bring a ‘temporary’ reduction in the terrorism activities on our soil. Demonetisation is indeed a powerful stroke against terrorism because it will have the impact of ceasing the funding through counterfeit currency notes in a single blow, and, at the same time, it will also help in restricting the funds transferred through Hawala transactions for funding of terrorism. However, it is to be noted here that this is only a temporary solution to restrict terrorism activities, and, as and when people with malicious intentions are able to replicate and print the counterfeit notes of the new high denomination currency notes issued in our country, the supply of counterfeit notes for funding terrorism will start again.

Solution to curb Terrorism – For curbing terrorism breeding on account of high denomination currency notes, the permanent solution is to ban all the high denomination currency notes in the economy and strive to move towards an economy with paperless currency.

Finally, after analyzing the demonetisation of high currency notes, in line with issues like corruption, black money and terrorism, my view is that although the intentions behind opting for demonetisation step are good, however, somehow the government missed hitting the home run on account of the various reasons mentioned in the respective points above. Now, I leave the ball in your court to decide whether it was a masterstroke or not.

I would like to conclude this blog with the hope that may this demonetisation step bring positive changes in our economy and, once for all, remove the chronic diseases like corruption, black money and terrorism from our soil. At the same time, I do hope that the government takes remedial measures in time so that it is able to restrict the black money from flowing into our banking channels. Let us wait and watch to see what is hidden in the womb of future.

I wish that the Almighty give good sense to each one of us.

Be in touch.

God bless you all!

 

Peyush Jain

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Author:

A writer at heart and creative at art. Someone who wants his words to leave an impact. Someone who is hungry for genuine feedback and not the number of likes. The thought behind my writing has always been to revolutionize the thought process which is overpowered with the set obsolete parameters, as well as, to bring into life, a new perspective towards everything around us. When I am penning down these lines, the beautiful composition by Mr. Dushyant Kumar Tyagi strikes my mind, "Sirf hungama khada karna mera maksad nahi, Meri koshish hai ki yeh soorat badalni chahiye; Merey seeney mein nahi to terey seeney mein sahi, Ho kahin bhi aag lekin aag jalni chahiye". The meaning of this verse (in my words) is that - My only motive is not of rabble-rousing, but my efforts are directed towards bringing about a change; I want the fire of awareness to lit somewhere, if not in my heart then maybe in yours, but the fire has to lit. Readers are a writer’s strength and one of the motivating factors that keep the writer always alive. All the honest readers are undoubtedly the unbiased mirror of a writer’s content. Hope the readers like my blogs and could correlate with them. It will be an honour if the readers are able to gain something worth from my write ups. At the same time, it will be my pleasure to know your honest views. Each and every single feedback is highly appreciated. So do not hesitate to comment with utmost truth in your words. Keep reading and keep learning. I wish you all a very healthy, happy and a prosperous life. Love to all. Be in touch. Take care and God Bless!

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