“To break the grip of corruption and black money, we have decided that the 500 rupee and 1,000 rupee currency notes presently in use will no longer be legal tender from midnight tonight, that is 8th November 2016. This means that these notes will not be accepted for transactions from midnight onwards. The 500 and 1,000 rupee notes hoarded by anti-national and anti-social elements will become just worthless pieces of paper. The rights and the interests of honest, hard-working people will be fully protected. Let me assure you that notes of 100, 50, 20, 10, five, two and one rupee and all coins will remain legal tender and will not be affected,” these words from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech on the evening of November 8, 2016, still haunt the citizens of India.
Back in 2016, Narendra Modi announced demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 banknotes of the Mahatma Gandhi series. Reason? To control the circulation of black money in the system and crack down the use of illicit and counterfeit cash that funds illegal activity and terrorism at first and then to achieve a cashless economy. Even after a year, whether the move had curtailed the shadow economy or had a crackdown on the use of illicit cash still remains a mystery. But it had led to major problems to the local citizen of the country and had tested India’s patience level. The queues outside banks and ATMs kept growing and so does the hardships of the citizens. Hyped as a surgical strike on black money holders and cross-border terrorists, the citizens were hooked to the idea that they are fighting the villains of the society and thus the burden was conveniently shifted from the government to the people. And began citizens’ tryst with tolerance. From standing in long ATM/bank queues to just exchange Rs 4,000 at one chance to many people losing their lives.
Due to Prime Minister’s immediate decision to scrap Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes people suffered midweek blues by standing in long queues. Though they had money in hand it was of no use. November being a wedding month in India but due to cash crunch many wedding in the country turned low-key. All the money saved for the D-Day became worthless. Though the withdrawal limit was raised to Rs 2.5 lakh for weddings it was useless because of the conditions attached.
When people’s only hope was ATM and rushed to the nearest one they were in shock to learn that the ATM could not dispense the new Rs 2,000 note because of its size. Even if they manage to get the new note by patiently standing in the queue the next issue was to get the change. The other biggest challenge and also the solution (maybe!) was to go cashless by using e-wallets. But what about those people who don’t use smartphones? Even those using were insecure in doing any transactions. The major issue rose in paying hospital bills. Even after the government announced that medical sector should accept the scrapped notes this was not the real scenario. Health and money, both priorities, were at stake. The list of problems doesn’t end here. It goes on and on.
November 8 marks demonetisation’s first anniversary. The day will be celebrated as ‘anti-black’ money day by the Bharatiya Janata Party, while the opposition plans to mark the occasion as ‘black day’. A year down the line all we can say is because of demonetisation we faced a lot of challenges, we praised, we criticised, felt helpless but were patient and didn’t lose hopes. We have full trust and faith in government and still hope government’s this and every move will change our lives for good. Fingers crossed for better India!