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Mr Prime Minister! Is Cash-in-Hand the same as Black Money?

On the onset, let me congratulate you Prime Minister Modi on taking this bold step of ‘demonetization’. It required courage, conviction and foresight of a passionate and committed leader to take the fight to the menace of black money.

I sat in the audience on November 13th when you spoke your heart out and reached out to the citizens of the country to walk along with you and trust you on this radical and strategically brilliant move to weed out black money. I was in awe. I could see and feel the commitment in your voice and eyes. And while I will stand with you in the fight against black money, I am left a little disillusioned about the implementation methodology adopted by your government. This is mainly because I am trying to understand the difference between cash-in-hand and black money in the context of your decision.

Let me elaborate what I am trying to say. Many tax paying citizens have been utilizing cash for most day-to-day activities – picking up groceries at the local grocery store, using local transportation like buses, rickshaws and taxis, payment of mobile bills at kiosks, taking family out to a cinema for a movie. The list is endless.

This money in most cases is withdrawn from banks or their respective ATMs. While we would like to allow ourselves to believe that India has progressed to cash-less economy with credit cards, debit cards, online payment gateways; the actual penetration across India is miniscule. Even in metro cities and places like Goa many traders or service providers do not operate in a cashless environment.

Being committed citizens and of course because of sense of panic due the discontinuation of the Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes on November 8th, majority of the hard-working people of our country rushed to the banks to ensure that their hard earned money does not become the value of a plain piece of paper. Most decided to throng to the banks, stand in line for hours and continue to do so even today. I am hopeful but not confident that before the end of December it would settle down. It would majorly depend on whether the issue of the shortfall of cash is resolved in a systematic and timely manner. Its resultant impact on the economy is a different matter.

Yesterday the Reserve Bank of India informed that approximately Rs 5.4 lakh crore of the discontinued Rs 500 and Rs 1000 have been deposited in various banks across the country. I am really looking forward to you making public the actual black money deposited by the black money hoarders from the total money deposited, because not all money deposited by the citizens is black money, most would have been cash-in-hand.

You pleaded with the people during your speech in Goa to trust you. And in keeping with the spirit of your intent, many in India do trust you. In much the same way, you could have trusted the people in implementing the demonetization in a less stressful manner. It is difficult to accept that government can now impose measures on how much of the hard-earned money of a citizen can be withdrawn from their own bank accounts even if its temporary.

Mr Prime Minister, you would agree with me that most black money holders would belong to the political, bureaucratic, business and underworld class. If you would have surveyed the banks and I did so in Goa, I could not find a single politician standing at either the ATMs or inside the banks. All one could see was poor, middle-class and upper-middle class. In fact, not a single a Minister from the BJP government in Goa or an elected MLA was seen at any of the banks like a common man. Neither did any of the BJP Ministers at the Centre and nor you, Mr Prime Minister were seen at any of the banks. The only media-followed national politician at the bank was Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi with an entourage of bodyguards and a luxury car to withdraw Rs 4000.

I read today in the Economic Times that Anil Bokil of Arthakranti Prasthan – the man behind the demonetization – opined that the government used his advice selectively. He claimed the proposal that he presented to you Mr Prime Minister in a July meeting had a comprehensive plan on how to announce and implement the scheme. The government picked up on only two out of the five points he had presented, as a result of which the policy now can neither be rejected nor accepted happily.

He claimed the “roadmap” his organisation gave to the government would have ensured that no chaos ensued. His proposal included the abolition of indirect or direct state and central taxes, introduction of the Bank Transaction Tax, no tax on cash withdrawals, legal limit on transactions and demonetisation of higher currency.
I am also of the opinion that while I laud the demonetisation decision, I believe that the implementation or planning around it leaves a lot to be desired.

I have a good eye for economics. The economic tremors will continue till beyond December 31st and probably only settle down by March 2017. I believe as a country, we would face the hardships as one nation till then. Eventually we will tide over it.

But will it end corruption or black money. It will most certainly not because corruption is not about money, it about a system that exists in every government office and ministry of this country.

I cannot comment of the major scams in the country, but I can comment about the major mining scam in Goa. The BJP government in Goa was elected to power to weed out corruption and bring to justice the major players in the mining scam – estimated at Rs 35,000 crore according to Justice MB Shah. But till today, the real politicians and bureaucrats are scot-free. They will contest the forthcoming Assembly elections in Goa and even win.

If, as you so openly asked the people of Goa to support you in your act against corruption and actually mean it. Then act against those responsible of the massive robbery of the natural resources of Goa and stashed away crores of rupees in foreign banks or maybe Indian banks now.

India is not about only the poor and rich people. There is also the middle-class, who quite frankly is the most honest and hard-working lot. They do not live on the largesse of government schemes or have stacks of money like the rich to bribe away their worries. As middle-class citizen, it appears that we have been penalized for the evil of the actual black money players and we will continue to pay the price. My sincere advice is do not take this section of the people of India for granted like governments before did.

Many Indians will always have cash-in-hand and not all of it is black money. The move you have taken will of course make or break you. But most importantly, it could make or break India. For the sake of our country, we must succeed.

Jai Hind!

Savio Rodrigues

Savio Rodrigues Founder & Editor-in-Chief GoaChronicle.com

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