With barely a week to go before the 30 December 2016 deadline, the troubles associated with a cashless existence remain. However, the move has garnered mixed reactions, especially since a section of the poor and middle class still see it as a measure that would tackle corruption even after 43 days of endless queues and empty ATM machines. This may seem baffling to many, but a detailed enquiry would reveal why some sections continue to support the move. A section of the population believes it is a disaster for the economy, the reverberations of which will be felt for months to come. A third believes it is a matter of national importance and we should use this opportunity to prove our love for the nation. It is this mixing of nationalism and national interest into every new scheme which has ensured the success of the government’s latest move. For success is not in its implementation, but its packaging—nationalism has been injected into demonetisation, which has become a symbol like the cow that needs to be revered and worshipped.
With lakhs out of jobs and crores facing a threat to their basic existence, insecurity and fear are bound to rise in the coming months and weaken the faith in the economic system of the country. This is a void that nationalism is unlikely to fill in the near future. A cashless arrangement is in the interest of the banking system only until it is voluntary in nature. With a country that lacks the bandwidth and a decent and secure connection, digital transactions can create havoc for the consumer and the seller.
The common man is convinced that he is making a real contribution to nation building and yet he is confused as to when the queues would get shorter. The biggest loser in this scheme is the Opposition. The Opposition, recovering from the shock of this covert operation, is still struggling to come to terms with it and to take on the government. For it is clear that shouting from the well of the Houses of Parliament, holding protest marches and dharnas have nothing more than shock value. They have also not been able to convince the public that their stand is strictly on the economic costs of this move, since a coherent strategy to take on the government is yet to come by. At the end of the day, it is packaging that matters and the government, despite the pitfalls, has managed to package the scheme well, at least for the time being. For how can you question national interest and desh bhakti? Both are essential ingredients in the making of a nation. Moreover, government has managed to highlight some unexpected and little understood benefits of demonetisation. For instance, it has diligently argued that demonetisation would spell death knell for counterfeit currency and its misuse by Pakistan in destabilising our economy. This has added an additional aura to the scheme, where every individual is directly contributing to the fight against Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Such is the national mood that a day-old baby named Taimur and his parents are being condemned on Twitter. For how can a parent dare to make a choice of name for their child if the nation doesn’t agree with them? Baby Taimur is not in national interest, neither is the charge by MIM hothead Asaduddin Owaisi’s claim that “Muslim mohallas” are being denied cash in ATM machines deliberately. For such statements are bound to reignite the debate on nationalism and secularism and do little to ease the stress in the so-called “Muslim mohallas”. Asaduddin Owaisi has done little to help the community he claims to represent, for he has been a shareholder in the last government. Despite the break-up of the alliance, he has been unable to explain what he has done to help Muslims in opening Jan Dhan accounts when the scheme was launched. By adding a communal twist to the lack of cash in Muslim mohallas, it is bound to encourage a sentiment, which will be against the interest of the community in the long run. To argue that demonetisation has affected one community more than another is to demonstrate ignorance about the conditions on the ground. It is similar to the argument given by hotheads who question the nationalism of those who fail to stand on their feet when the national anthem is played in cinemas.
The success of the scheme is its packaging as a means to tackle corruption effectively, move to a cashless economy, restricting the covert operations of Pakistan and recently cleansing the muck in the electoral system of this country. For such packaging is bound to gag the Opposition. Despite every political outfit’s stand against corruption, the silence on electoral reforms and transparency in electoral funding is unmistakable. So this is bound to neutralise the Opposition and push it to the defensive. While the common man battles it out on the streets, in the villages and metros, this is a rocket, which has already been launched. To demand its rollback reflects naivety. To relate it to nationalism and nation-building is not in national interest. The coming months would show whether national interest is enough to withstand the economic hardships brought about by demonetisation, for hardships are bound to continue by the own admission of the government. The loot unearthed in repeated I-T raids across the country seems like the tremors before the earthquake. Can it be a sign of an earthquake in the offing? The early months of 2017 would reveal the other half of the story.