Setting The Record Straight On Demonetization

It has been 10 days since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the demonetization of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes. Unfortunately, people are also buying into a lot of misinformation that is doing the rounds on social media, Whatsapp etc. Hence, I decided to compile a simple and straight-foraward Q&A. You might have known all of this information already, but just in case.

1.) I’m greatly inconvenienced by demonetization but will bear it for the country, for the greater good. Will it end black money?
No. Won’t even come close to it as cash forms only 6% of the entire black money.
2.) Where is the black money hidden then?
Real estate, gold, foreign exchange – the top 3 preferred mediums to convert black money into white. PM Modi himself had said, when he was Gujarat CM, that over 90% of black money is in foreign/offshore accounts.
3.) But didn’t this move end supply of fake currency?
For the time being yes. But only 0.02% of the total currency was fake in the first place.

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4.) Can Pakistan now print fake 500 and 2000 rupee notes to fund terror activities?
Almost impossible in the short run. But a few years down the line, every likelihood that the fake currency circulation will recommence. Also, there’s no nano chip GPS in the new notes.
5.) Will things go back to normal in 50 days as PM Modi promised?
The level of inconvenience will certainly come down. But experts are saying it’ll take at least 6 months for things to even come remotely close to normalcy.
6.) Why will it take 6 months?
The total number of 500 notes in the market = 1570 crore
Total number of 1000 rs notes in the market = 630 crore
Total number of useless notes to be replaced = 2200 crore
The capacity of printing press is 300 crore notes per month. You do the math now.
7.) How much money will it cost the RBI to print all these notes?
In case you didn’t know, there is a cost incurred in printing money too. The Hindu reported that it could cost the RBI at least Rs. 12,000 crore.
8.) Is the govt willing to bring funding of political parties under RTI?
No commitment given.
9.) Is the govt/BJP planning to accept donations only via cheque?
No commitment given.

Jaitley addresses press
10.) What measures are the govt taking to ensure the newly-minted 500 Rs notes and 2000 Rs notes will not be used for black money/corruption?
No plan revealed yet.
11.) Will there be a reform in the direct tax structure, which is said to be the root cause of black money?
No indication given.
12.) Then why is the govt projecting it as a war against corruption and black money?
I don’t know. You ask them.
Are there any advantages at all of this move?
Yes.
1.) More money with the banks
Over Rs. 4 lakh crore has been deposited in banks across the country. By December 30, govt is expecting
close to Rs 10 lakh crore.
2.) Interest rates on loans will drop
Naturally, because banks have more money at their disposal.
However, the dividends / interest that you earned from your deposits such as FDs will reduce.
3.) Crores of people, who didn’t have bank accounts will be forced to open one.
4.) Those who didn’t have any ID proof will realize the value of having one.
5.) Less dependency on cash in the future; plastic money already getting a big boost.
6.) Real estate prices expected to come down sharply.
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MERE WORDS WON’T SUFFICE

Occasionally, certain developments in your life force you to take a step back and introspect, whether the path which you have undertaken is necessarily the right one. Without any apprehension, I can say that the NDA has reached that stage.

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Yesterday, the world witnessed how Shiv Sena stormed into the BCCI headquarters in Mumbai in a bid to cancel the Indo-Pak bilateral talks to resume cricketing ties between the two countries. Within a few hours later, independent MLA from J&K, Engineer Rashid now famous for his protest against the beef ban in J&K was inked by right wing fanatics. With each passing day, the situation is getting more and more dangerous. Engineer Rashid even went as far as to say that such a hate filled and polarised atmosphere will force the Muslims of India to concur with Jinnah’s two nation theory that Hindus and Muslims just cannot live together.

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Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was assertive today when he spoke out against the intolerance brewing in our country.  I agree with Jaitley when he says that such rampant elements are bringing shame to the party and is masking all the good work done by the government so far. Mr. Jaitley, you may not be fueling the communal fire directly, but I’m sure you realise that your lackadaisical approach in taking stringent action against these uncouth elements is only emboldening them.

But having said that, I also wholeheartedly support his reminder to the media that it should not give the fringe so much of ‘oxygen’. We in the media especially the TV breed are obsessed with exciting visuals. We end up pitting one fringe against the other and further polarise an already divided society. Now, we can’t be like ostriches, oblivious to the happenings around us but at the same time, we also shouldn’t let it dictate our agenda for the day.

It depresses me when I see the extent to which religious tensions have escalated in the last few months. If every religion starts imposing their views on others, then it’ll end up shredding the very fabric of our society. It’s absolutely shameful that the largest democracy in the world which prides itself on it’s secular roots and culture is now split over a petty thing such as consumption of beef. As people belonging to the land which gave birth to yoga and spirituality, shouldn’t we be evolving as a society and setting an example to the world with our secularism and togetherness? What worries me is that such hostility provide fodder to the radicals and terror organisations in brainwashing vulnerable minds.

I for one do not hold the opinion that our society was all hunky dory during the UPA regime. The fundamentalists from both side of the spectrum were still spewing venom at each other back then. But it wasn’t so brazen nor was it so frequent. When union ministers and MPs from the ruling party openly display their bigotry, it is definitely a cause for concern.

It was welcoming to know that the loose cannons were pulled up and reprimanded by Amit Shah at the behest of Modi. Also, bigwigs in the government such as Jaitley and Rajnath publicly voicing their dissent provides a glimmer of hope.  But will that be enough? I doubt it. Even after Modi’s speech, we still have idiots spreading their communal hatred. The government will have to do more, much more, if they have to curb this sectarianism. Mere talk won’t suffice. Harsh punishments should be doled out to errant party leaders and a stern example must be set.

Why not start with the Shiv Sena? If the BJP has the courage, then it should part ways with them. People don’t expect much development from the Sena anyway. On the contrary, they’ll
only dent the government’s image with their puerile antics. If the BJP has faith in it’s development mantra, then what’s stopping them? It’s high time the centre walks the talk.

KASURI MUST BE THANKING SHIV SENA

Image Courtesy: NDTV

After Ghulam Ali, it’s Khurshid Kasuri, who faced the wrath of the Shiv Sena. Khurshid, a former Pakistan foreign minister is in India to launch his book ‘Neither a Hawk nor a Dove’.
The Shiv Sena pulled up Sudheendra Kulkarni, the event organiser, also a BJP sympathiser from his car this morning. As per Kulkarni, the Sena workers threw black paint over him and threatened him to not carry on with the book launch scheduled in the evening. Shiva Sena had already given a warning prior to this to cancel the event. Their justification is that, with the increasing ceasefire violations and cross border infiltrations, we should sever all ties with Pakistan. The media immediately sensed a juicy news item in the making and subsequently ran with the story. All through the morning, one could see Kulkarni’s face smeared in black ink flashing across news channels.

There is huge outrage over the Sena’s display of intolerance. Their spokesperson even brazened it out, calling the act ‘Mild’. But honestly, I was not surprised. In fact, I found it as yet another run-of-the-mill incident, taking into account the Sena’s penchant for muzzling viewpoints that contradicts theirs, especially when it comes to Pakistan. Be it digging up a cricket stadium or the recent threat seeking ban on the Ghulam Ali concert, we’ve seen it all.

Image Courtesy: Mid Day

What irks me the most is not the actual act itself, but the nationwide coverage and platform that the Shiv Sena ended up providing to Kasuri’s book launch. Till a couple of days ago, I had no idea that any such book launch is taking place. In spite of being a journalist and an ardent follower the news and current affairs, I had no clue that a former Pakistani foreign minister called Khurshid Kasuri even existed. Today, his book launch ate up 80% of TV news coverage. He became a national talking point and his book was launched in Mumbai with much fanfare. For Kasuri, he didn’t even have to face any physical discomfort like Kulkarni.

The Shiv Sena’s move not just ended up being counter-productive, but also made them look stupid. Tomorrow, if the book goes on to become a best-seller in India, then you know to whom Kasuri will send a ‘Thank You’ card.

MODI’S STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

Finally, Prime Minister Modi lent his views to the world, on the growing instances of communal violence plaguing our country. In an election rally in Bihar, he strongly condemned the politicians indulging in communal acts and adviced people not pay attention to them. He also requested the nation to maintain communal harmony and spread brotherhood between Hindus and Muslims. He struck all the right chords. He spoke the words, which the country was yearning to hear from him for months.

However, being the skeptic that I am, I can’t help but question the timing and the motivation behind his statements. The Prime Minister chose to speak 10 days after the Dadri Lynching. He chose to touch upon this issue during his fourth and finally rally of the day. Why didn’t he feel the need to enlighten the masses, who attended his first three rallies? Was it just for the media and the TV cameras? Plus, One can’t just ignore the Bihar elections angle.

I know I’ll be criticized on the lines of “Oh but you will say this regardless of when he makes these statements” and “You want to criticize the prime minister just for the sake of it.” Let’s not forget, here is a Prime Minister who has never in the last 15 months openly criticized his party members for spreading communal hatred or making communally charged statements. Not even a tweet assuring or comforting the minorities.

But if Prime Minister Modi’s statements are not politically driven, then I wholeheartedly welcome it. Somewhere hidden inside me is a tiny optimist who wants this to be true and genuine. Let’s hope this is a step in the right direction. If in the future we get to witness a Dadri like incident, then it would mean that either the Prime Minister was not sincere in his statement or that the fringe elements within his party do no respect his words.

Yakub’s hanging, a possible catalyst

Yakub Memon is dead and buried. But the entire fiasco surrounding his hanging raised a lot of questions and stirred up a lot of emotions. I won’t get into the merits of the case as i respect the Supreme Court’s decision. However, i want to use this case to address a couple of tangential issues. First of all, I have no qualms in admitting that i am against the use of death penalty as a punishment. It so far has failed to convince me that it acts as a deterrence. I agree with Shashi Tharoor when he says that we as a society need to evolve and that an “eye for an eye” will only enable a vicious cycle.

I feel that in our country, sending a convict to the gallows is mere symbolism. It currently functions as a mode of appeasement than as a source of deterrence. Only three hangings in the last decade and all of them are either terrorists or affiliated to terrorism. We have convicts who are serial rapists and killers on death row, but there is a good chance they might not be hanged. Why? Are we saying that raping minors and subsequently, brutally murdering them is less heinous than an act of terrorism? Or is it the case that death penalty is reserved only for the “celebrity” convicts who make the front page and appear on primetime debates? Is “Rarest of the rare” applicable only for the likes of Ajmal Kasab, Afzal Guru and Yakub Memon? Terrorists in fact take pride in dying and would rather die in the battle than rot in a prison. Why give them that pleasure?

When we talk about deterrence, rather than debating capital punishment, we should debate and find ways of speeding up the judicial process. We should not feel proud about hanging Yakub, but ashamed of stretching the case for 22 years. We desperately need to find a solution to make sure that lakhs of cases don’t drag on for eternity. There is a common saying “the law will take it’s own course.” In reality, what it means is that you might be dead by the time the verdict comes out. Criminals know fully well that their case will be in a state of limbo for years, before the wheels begin to move. And when they do, the pace will make a snail look like a leopard. Hence, lot of people don’t even bother to register a case.

It amused me when the media went berzerk over Yakub’s death, bringing “closure” to the family of the victims. Ridiculous! We have so many cases where the victim’s family and the injured are yet to be compensated(search Kirti Ajmera) while dawood and tiger memon, the main perpetrators are roaming around freely in pakistan. Closure is still a long way to go. Since we are hovering around the subject, if hanging actually does provide “closure”, then shouldn’t Bhullar and Rajoana be hanged as well? Why were their death sentences commuted to life?

To debate on whether or not Yakub deserved death penalty is useless, now that he is no more. But, i want this incident to act as catalyst which enables a healthy and nuanced debate on capital punishment and also on ways to speed up the judicial process. This will also be a test of our democracy’s maturity.

My Advice to Rahul Gandhi

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You must be wondering why i wrote this article. It is almost akin to kicking a dead horse. Its been a little more than 10 years since Rahul Gandhi joined active politics, but hasn’t achieved anything worth mentioning yet. Since i had time to kill, i wondered if given the opportunity, what i would advise Rahul Gandhi.

1. Lead from the front in parliament

Rahul Gandhi scored one of the biggest self-goals in his political career by running away when it mattered the most. He should have been the face of the party opposing the land acquisition bill in parliament; a bill which he was most passionate about and held strong views against. Instead, he went on a holiday to ‘Introspect’.
For an MP, no better platform to put your political opponents on the mat and boost the morale of a party facing an existential crisis. Sonia Gandhi’s new found aggression clearly depicts that the party workers are yearning for a strong leader to guide them. Sadly for Rahul, he isn’t being missed.
2. Social media Bandwagon

In the age of digital media and communication, you cannot afford to live in a bubble. Elections are slowly getting driven by personalities and we are witnessing a presidential style of contest. So, he needs to hop onto the social media bandwagon and present his views. How does he expect people to vote for him when they have no idea what his views are on various issues. Since he gets the most flak from this platform, he should take it up as a challenge. Indulge in debates, face criticism and learn to swallow the bitter pill. It is only with mistakes that you improve.
3. Get rid of the sycophants

When you have too many people shielding you from reality, you end up as Rahul Gandhi. At 44, if you are called a ‘Young’ leader, then that is a cause for concern. I don’t think i have ever seen a more horrible set of advisers circling a politician. They should immediately be given a one way ticket to Antarctica.
4. Enough of the disappearing acts

Rahul Gandhi has become notorious for his disappearing acts. He is like a tease, who’ll start something and run away leaving the rest (including the media), high and dry. A classic example would be the Gandhi scion announcing in 2011, that Uttar Pradesh is his ‘karmabhoomi‘. After the 2012 debacle in the U.P. assembly elections, he took up the responsibility for the defeat but since then, never really worked on developing and grooming the state organizational unit.
5. Focus on your constituency

During the run up to the 2014 General Elections, Modi had Gujarat as a show-reel. What did Rahul Gandhi have? He couldn’t even develop his own constituency i.e. ‘Amethi’ in 10 years. How on earth does he then expect people to entrust him with the responsibility of governing the country? Politics is a 24×7 job. Had he not been from the Gandhi family, he wouldn’t have been re-elected even as a Corporator. Start small. Focus on one area and build from there. .

All this advice might come across as an exercise in futility. I don’t blame you. Rahul Gandhi may indeed be incorrigible. May be i am so desperate to see a worthy political competitor to Narendra Modi, that somewhere i am rooting for even a person like Rahul Gandhi to rise to the occasion.

Before you bash me as a ‘Modi-Hater’ or ‘Anti-Modi’ or ‘Congress Chamcha’ or ‘Sickular’, let me share with you why i am longing for a worthy opposition in parliament. Its because I want the incumbent government to not take things for granted, curb their hubris and work towards fulfilling their promises.

Five big Takeaways from the Delhi Elections.

Congratulations to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for their resounding victory in the 2015 Delhi assembly elections. The ‘broom’ literally swept the capital clean. No pundit, opinion poll or exit poll, predicted the magnitude of their victory. A new chapter has been written in Indian politics which writes in bold and capital, that you don’t need to rely on communal polarization, dynasty and hundreds and thousands of crores to fight and win an election.

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The following are the five biggest takeaways from this election:

1.) Be Humble and Apologize.

A masterstroke by Kejriwal. He apologized to the nation umpteen number of times for running away from power after just 49 days. There was genuineness in his apology and the decisive verdict proves, that people were willing to give him a second chance.

2.) Modi-Shah duo is no longer infallible.

The biggest takeaway from this election. It demolished the invincible aura that the duo enjoyed. The hubris that exuded from the BJP’s demeanour too would’ve been shattered. In a way, this is a good thing for the ruling party as well as the Indian democracy. Too much of centralized and concentrated power at the hands of a few, will always be detrimental in the long run. The winning streak and the public mandate that they enjoyed, gave them a garb to hide under, whenever questions were raised regarding the increasing communal tensions. Hopefully, the BJP will gracefully swallow the bitter pill and get back to their original agenda and promise of ‘acche din’, development and good governance.

3.) Caustic and negative campaigns don’t work.

The BJP made the same mistake which the congress did in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. They should’ve realized from the congress’s puerile strategy, that vitriolic campaigns targeting an individual doesn’t really work. On the contrary, the constant accusations and name calling like ‘bhagoda’, ‘Back stabber’, ‘Naxalite’, ‘Anarchist’ etc. evoked sympathy among the voters and turned Kejriwal from a ‘bhagoda’ to a ‘bechara’.

4.) State elections are about micro issues, not macro.

The AAP was accused of playing agitational politics and being inept at governance. To counter this, they released a detailed and meticulously etched out manifesto to deal with the electricity, water and infrastructural problems. The BJP on the other hand was content with just a vision document which doesn’t mean anything.

Throughout their rallies, the BJP went overboard in selling their ‘centre-state-same-party’ logic, but barely addressed the local issues that plague the people day in and day out. I saw a YouTube video of Amit Shah’s rally, wherein all he doing was extolling the governance of the BJP in the last nine months, the falling oil prices, the Obama visit and India’s deterring response to Pakistan’s ceasefire violations and infiltrations.

5.) Don’t parachute land your leaders at the last moment.

Kiran Bedi is a classic example of why you shouldn’t parachute land your leaders at the last moment. Instead, strengthen your state organisational unit, empower and groom the local leaders. Harsh Vardhan should’ve been the ideal candidate as he won the BJP 32 seats in the last assembly elections. But Amit Shah & Co. tried to be too clever by half and the end result was 19 Ministers, 120 MPs and a mute Bedi against one man.

AAP regrouped after their debacle in the Lok Sabha elections and began their campaign well in advance with the Delhi dialogues. By the time the BJP took stock of the situation, it was already too late.