standing business man and crossroad
standing business man and crossroad

To combat the vicissitudes of life which confront humans, it would sagacious to remain humble, simple and polite, adopt a forgiving nature, become childlike and empathetic, writes Ravi Valluri

October 31, 1984. I was a student at Delhi University when I heard the announcement over radio, that Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister, was felled to the bullets of assassins. By night there was carnage on the streets of Delhi and across several parts of Northern India as innocent Sikhs were viciously massacred.

That night Rajiv, her son, was sworn in to lead the nation-ironically by the first Sikh President of India. The wanton violence lasted almost three days. Nineteen days later, addressing a rally at the Boat Club lawns, the handsome Prime Minister passionately spoke, ‘When a mighty tree falls it is only natural that the earth around it does shake a little.’

Circa 2016. There were several likes on my Facebook page, when I quoted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech on demonetisation, ‘So, in this fight against corruption, black money, fake notes and terrorism, in this movement for purifying our country, will our people not put up with difficulties for some days?’ Yet there were some discordant notes too.

Some likened it to Rajiv Gandhi’s speech at the Boat Club while others advised me not to be a foot soldier of the government. Riding on a tsunami of sympathy, Rajiv and the Congress Party swept to power with an overwhelming majority. The young Prime Minister with messianic zeal attempted to dismantle the power brokers in the Congress Party and usher in revolutionary changes in the fields of science and technology.

Indian Railways pioneered the computerised Passenger Reservation System. Madhav Rao Scindia, the presiding deity of Rail Bhavan fashioned the project with enormous enthusiasm. As a strapping youth, fired by the socialistic rhetoric of the likes of George Fernandes, I felt that the monolith railways would lose jobs and hurtle down the precipice.

Misplaced fears! Today, 70% of the reservations are done through the internet. Indian Railways rely on the Freight Operating Information System to ensure transparency in e-payments and cargo tracking. On hindsight, was I not being a Luddite?

The jury is still to be out on the demonetisation. Indeed, a great churning is taking place. Serpentine queues have formed outside banks and ATMs to deposit and withdraw money. Media reports indicate lives have been snuffed out, the informal and agrarian sectors have been adversely affected.

Former Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh has termed the demonetisation as, ‘monumental mismanagement, organised loot and legalised plunder.’ He preterits that politics is the art of perception and the electoral verdict of 2014 clearly vindicated the Anna moment and a crusade against graft and unscrupulousness.

How much black money will be eventually garnered is a matter of speculation and conjecture, but the tectonic changes will indeed trigger transparency in the long haul. JM Keynes may have to rewrite an epitaph.

It is a daunting challenge for the Prime Minister to adhere to the challenges ahead and the goal post he has set for himself. A man of ordinary intelligence would perhaps have buckled under pressure and adopted the ‘middle path’- the softer option of a roll back. But a malleable and robust mind takes up the cudgels to turn an adversity into a win-win situation. For this, the individual needs to conquer his anger and ego.

In the Ashtavakra Gita, Rajrishi King Janaka implores the sage to provide in a nutshell the way to salvation. ‘Give up your ego’ says Ashtavakra. Ego encompasses the human mind with an array of antipathetic emotions. It blurs the vision of emperors, vassals and seekers alike. It extirpates the peace and tranquillity of mind. In such an eventuality, the individual is unable to take scientific and rational decisions.

Duryodhana blinded by rage, attempted to chain Narayana himself in the court of Dhritirashtra.

To combat the vicissitudes of life which confront humans, it would sagacious to remain humble, simple and polite, adopt a forgiving nature, become childlike and empathetic.

We need to be considerate with even our purported adversaries. The Bhagvad Gita says, ‘Those who wish to garner without returning anything in exchange essentially act as thieves.’ It is paramount to train our minds to become learners, acquiring fresh skill sets to grow. Life keeps teaching us several lessons.

It was a wakeful and alert mind which responded to the vexed situation of disbursing cash to hapless customers through embracing technology, circumventing hurdles.

Nandan Nilekani, the man who spearheaded the Unique Identification Authority of India during Dr Singh’s tenure maintains a contrarian view. Conceding that short-term pain is inevitable, he is of the firm opinion that digitisation of the economy which was once envisioned in 3 to 6 years would now occur within 3 to 6 months. The ballast for these changes was unwittingly cushioned in the past, particularly over the last seven years.

The glasnost and perestroika of the change have been laid through the dispensation of Aadhar Cards, the Unified Payment Interface (UPI), the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD), through the proliferation of micro ATMs and the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna.

The state of Goa – which has a population of 15 lacs, 22 lac bank accounts and 18 lac mobile phones- can be a perfect laboratory to examine the cashless model. Demonetisation is an audacious dream. Only those with passionate dreams can destroy the demons of doubts in their minds.

Steve Jobs was pregnant with imaginative thoughts and unvarnished devilry. He went out to revolutionize six industries. Maya Angelou says, ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’

For the millions standing in the extended queues, this is the one glimmer of hope that there will be a transparent economy that it pays to be honest. Catch 22 or Cash 22, will be known when Arun Jaitley rises to present the Union Budget on 1st February, 2017.

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