Freakonomics: DeMonetisation leads to DeCongestion
Some years back while doing my MBA, I read a fantastic book – Freakonomics. Those of you who have read Steven Levitt’s 4 million copies best seller, would agree that, it connected unrelated incidents through use of sociology and economics. One of the examples in the many that he proves in his book is that, Legalizing Abortion led to decrease in crime rates in US. Some may disagree but he does sound convincing.
After the Surgical Strike on Black Money, I recently experienced one more such theory – “Demonetisation in India has led to Decongestion in Traffic in mid-November” in India. Well the original thought first came from my close friend Mr. Davidson Devasirvatham, IPS, IG Police in his FB post, where he observed this trend in one of the busiest roads in Chennai and asked if this was a result of Demonetisation? I read, chuckled and moved on. May be it was an odd occurrence….. but was it?
After full 8 days of the 86% cash becoming demonetised, I drove across Hyderabad for a training, this phenomenon cropped up once again. I stay in the eastern part of Hyderabad and many times I have to travel about 30-35 kms right across Secunderabad-Hyderabad to Hi Tech City, through one of the busiest main arterial road. In fact this distance is normally covered by me in about 1 hour 30 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes. At most places it usually is stop-go-stop bumper to bumper traffic. That day however, I covered the distance in just 1 hour and 5 minutes. At places where I expected traffic snarls, the flow was smooth. Only at three places, the car came to a halt but moved on within a minute. It is then I remembered Davidson’s FB post.
One swallow doesn’t make a summer. Right. So I decided to check the trend on my return journey. I experienced higher traffic density. Result: Same – I reached home faster than usual. I still couldn’t believe it.
So the next day, I started 15 minutes late. As most city dwellers know, a 5 minute late start can cost minimum 15-20 minutes delay at the destination end. I did experience a comparatively higher density and slower speeds, and decided that it could have been a rare occurrence the previous day. But I reached my destination earlier than the normal acceptable time. The return journey was again faster than usual. Strike two! The third day I reached super fast. Then I realized it was a Saturday morning where the IT employee traffic is generally missing.
To further confirm this, I also spoke to a traffic cop, who said that he too noticed this phenomena since that historic day of Nov 08, 2016. So what I experienced was not a freaky one odd day incident. Demonetisation in India actually has led to Decongestion in Traffic, or so it seems.
Where are the people? Are they still standing in queues in ATMs and Banks, or are some Black Money guys still counting the notes, or have the street vendors closed shop due to lack of customers or do people have no money to fill fuel, or saving fuel for future or have the black moneyed people stopped going out to shop, or the autos are not running for want of change……. Do you have any idea?
What could be the reason? I have no idea, except call it Freakonomics. Was ours such a big black money economy? Or was it lack of money which is the reason?
Whatever it be, less traffic is always a welcome sign. For that alone, the Demonetisation is a great success besides all the economic ones. I hope this trend remains. I mean lesser traffic and not lesser cash.
Have you noticed this phenomena too? May be Steven Levitt would be able to explain this through Freaknomics!