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The ‘Perfumed Dishonesty’ Around The Demonetisation Debate

Author: Nupur J Sharma
Publication: Swarajyamag.com
Date: November 17, 2016
URL:   http://swarajyamag.com/ideas/the-perfumed-dishonesty-around-the-demonetisation-debate

For the past few days, the burning topic that everyone seems to be talking about, and rightly so, is the government’s move to demonetise the Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denomination currency bills. We have heard a myriad of arguments for and against this move. But the most surprising argument that reduces the entire debate to facetious levels is being made by some of the elite who seem crestfallen that their “maids” (yes, most of them call them “maids” and not domestic help), chauffeurs, fruit vendors, vegetable vendors, newspaper boys, milk man and so on and so forth are being adversely affected. Yes. I can’t disagree with the temporary inconvenience or hardships caused, but their hollow arguments peddled against demonetisation would be laughable if not so uninformed and/or sinister.

A cascade of rhetoric has descended upon us. From how their “maid” doesn’t have a morsel to eat, to how the chauffeur is distraught because he doesn’t have money for his daughter’s wedding. What stood out in all this was the sheer hypocrisy in their concern.

Unsurprisingly, those who went on and on about how their maid had no money to buy food didn’t once urge fellow citizens to spare some Rs 100 bills for the needy. Not once did they inspire others to perhaps use their debit/credit card to buy groceries for their domestic employees. Not once did they talk about giving the help a paid leave so they could line up to exchange their money.

Then there were others who spoke about how the financial inclusion plan was flawed to begin with. Flawed because the poor—and their marker for poor is limited to their domestic help—don’t even have bank accounts to help them withdraw or deposit money with ease. That made me wonder why the flower class, which is suddenly so concerned about the well being of the downtrodden, didn’t once bother to help their domestic employees open Jan Dhan Yojna (JDY) accounts. Of course, they had no means to foresee this demonetization step, but the PMJDY has so many benefits that could help the financially marginalized when in need. I wondered why their concern for their domestic help didn’t percolate down to helping them get overdraft facility or the insurance that comes with the PMJDY account. Their pietism left me in splits when the very people who spent days, if not weeks, deriding the “Sukanya Samriddhi Yojna”, a scheme that was meant to help people save for their daughters’ wedding, expressed such extraordinary concern for how their chauffeur would manage cash for the same purpose.

The hilarity of their blatant hypocrisy gives way to anger when one realizes just how much work has been done, and how much more could have been done if the elite class that is in the position to sway opinions, basically compromising of journalists, TV lawyers, analysts etc, in their hate for current establishment, hadn’t resigned themselves to silence over measures taken for true financial inclusion. A total of 25.51 crore bank accounts have been opened under PMJDY with a cumulative balance of Rs 45636.61 crore and the amount of overdraft availed was well over Rs 31581.68 lakhs. I can’t even imagine what the results of PMJDY could have been if the intellectuals, whose concern for the financially downtrodden is suddenly at its peak, would have perhaps grown into their Samaritan role earlier.

The quintessential intellectual’s liberal hypocrisy is glaring in their omissions. While being supremely concerned about the plight of the poor, they conveniently, probably willfully, mislead people into believing that the “poor” constitute only of the people who are employed by the elite. Sadly, the educated liberal has forsaken the worst victims of the underbelly of black money dominated parallel economy that infests our country like the plague.

Global March Against Child Labor’s report states that in totality, the Commercial Sexual Exploitation industry in India generates revenues amounting to $360 billion per year (per Mr. Kailash Satyarthi). Anywhere between $35 to $360 billion is the rough estimate of how much this parallel economy generates by torturing, enslaving and using girls as sex objects, to be bought and sold, raped and abused for labour. It is said that the parallel economy estimates around 2 per cent-20 per cent of India’s GDP in quantum. The amount of black money generated for one victim in a brothel can amount to 3 – 14 lakhs. I am shocked that the torch bearers of poverty-stricken, marginalized, exploited men, women and children, downright refuse to talk about how severely demonetisation will break the very backbone of these syndicates. Every year, roughly 1,00,000 minors are forced into prostitution. I am saddened and broken about the fact that the liberal elite have forsaken these women and children. Perhaps, using the plight of their domestic help for making a political point is far more important than educating the masses about how a multi-billion dollar syndicate that exploits women and children, stands devastated after demonetisation of high value currency bills. Their entire parallel economy burnt to ashes.

Another result of the government’s move is that the Naxals and Maosits have taken a severe financial hit. It is said that the Naxals had stashed away over Rs 7000 crore in the Bastar region alone. This was buried deep into the forest and used to procure arms and ammunition and to pay the cadres. It is said that the money collected by Maoists exceed Rs 1500 crore annually. Extortion rackets from tendu patta run into over Rs 200 crore per state. These groups function mostly from tribal areas and severely affect economic growth in the red corridor. I also hardly see our elite Samaritans talking about how, post demonetization, not one incident of stone pelting has been reported from Kashmir. Or how the counterfeit notes pumped into the country by Pakistan for terror activities has taken an irreparable hit.

These contradictions baffle me. From the human trafficking syndicates, to Naxals, Maoists and terror operators in Kashmir, they all affect the most financially and socially marginalized people of our country. I wonder, does their pain not affect our elite? Does a terror attack have to happen at a 5 star hotel for them to wake up and take notice? And even then, the pain is soon lost in the politically correct chatter of champagne sipping gatherings.

Is their concern merely a charade to wash away their blatant nonchalance towards us “unwashed masses”?

The demonetisation move brought along a stark divide in the narrative. The “unwashed masses” standing in unending queues saying, “It’s a temporary problem. But this is good for the nation”, and the perfumed class saying, “It's not about us! What about the poor people?”.

I, therefore, beseech the perfume scented class. I understand how difficult it must be to personally stand in those never ending queues. Your expensive sandals aren’t built for it. Your little jeweled bag isn’t meant to carry all that cash, and that’s fine. I for one am the last person to demonise the rich. But please, for the sake of sanity and integrity, don’t off load your sentiments on us masses. The “unwashed masses” are going to be fine with or without your condescension. The very least you can do is at least be honest. I therefore, as a common citizen, say to this to you today: NOT IN MY NAME.


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