I was on my holiday to Chennai, when I ran upto a old friend at the bus station. I was meeting him after some years and there was not much change in him except for a thicker beard and a wife by his side. He started talking about a new 'nano-chip' embedded 2000 rupee note. I took that as a figment of imagination from a crazy guy and went off to sleep, switching off my mobile.
I woke up the next morning to a flurry of messages and panic calls. Our dear Prime Minister, in all his divine wisdom, had banned every single 500 and 1000 rupee notes. Here I was caught in a unknown city with nothing except a few hundred rupees.
Now that was not the end of all surprises. After a few minutes of dazed silence, I caught a shared taxi to our hotel. The guys sitting next to me started talking about East Coast and West Coast. Now what would be so important than finding a bunch your currencies worthless? I took out my mobile again to find out that Donald Trump had beat all expectations and analysis to emerge as the President of the United States of America and thus becoming the most powerful man in the world (universe might be a little exaggerated).
One by one the world democracies have plunged to autocratic rulers with right leaning ideology. The common man is of the view that debates, discussions and arguments breed inefficiency & would prefer leaders who makes things happen.
USA, with its hugely diverse population with largely liberal outlook to life chose a leader with very regressive mindset. This ought to be classified as a modern day miracle. Most of the mainstream media, pundits and corporate houses were batting for the lady who seemed to let their money wheel turn around seamlessly. They failed to see or chose to ignore the sign masses in Britain gave through the opinion polls, popularly termed as Brexit. The little guy on the street felt isolated from the 'economic recovery' from the global economic crises. The figures and indices of economic growth remain far off him. The success of capitalism is to evoke the feeling of participation in wealth creation. If the feeling fails, the system fails.
The small guy who had been enjoying the fruits of globalisation and neo-liberal economic policies has been eft out in the cold for the past decade. The small guy who spends almost the entire day of his life struggling to pay his bills, mortgage and his kids' college forms a significant part of the electorate. Over a period of time the bitterness of the small guys precipitated into a single aim. To eliminate the enemies who eat into his wealth. It could be the rich corporates who destroys all his savings with a single, reckless swipe, the muslim terrorists who is out there to wreck his equilbrium, the immigrants who wants to steal his livelihood, He saw his answers in loud-mouthed, chest thumping leaders who talked little sense. He believes his leader will wipe off the enemies with his magic wand.
Now when Modiji ranted and raved against the corrupt, black money hoarders and the evil terrorists across the border, the small guy was willing to take it all and stand in his queue hoping for a better tomorrow.
Days have gone by. Today it’s more than a month since demonetization was declared. The small guy still stands in front of the ATM. Many of the small and mid level vendors have closed shop or scaled down their business. Till date no big name has declared bankruptcy with wads of useless money. When the ordinary people find it difficult to marry off their children, the super rich splash around cash and IT dept doesn’t even bother to ask questions.
The clever people at the government has slightly shifted the goal post, now gunning for a ‘cashless’ society. Another financial term, sweet in the ears of insulated section of our population. Our PM went on to star in the advertisements of private e-payment players too, to emphasize a cashless utopian society. The carrot in the story is no wastage of paper, no fake money, no scope to hoard etc. Pictures of small scale vendors with small, cute Paytm boards appeared in media, highlighting success of the whole saga.
The irony caught me on my visit to Bangalore. The private company hired part time sales boys who went around registering merchants for free and giving them free Paytm boards. I observed for some time at the busy market place and failed to see even one person making e-wallet payment. Now where is the gap? The messiahs of e-wallets conveniently remains muted on high merchant discount rates. The security is not audited and there many unresolved disputes in the country around many service providers.
As the days progress by, the small guy realizes the dangers of authoritarian decision making.