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Archive for the month “December, 2016”

DeMonetisation: A Tughlaqi Farmaan for Rural India?

Nov 08, 2016 was indeed earth shattering for many. I believed this bold move would destroy Black Money. I still remain an ardent supporter of the IDEA of DeMonetisation. Please note …the IDEA only. I also remain to be one of the strongest critic of the poorest planning and implementation ever seen. In the name of secrecy, RBI and the PM seem to have bungled big time, and when we add some unscrupulous bankers who exchanged the Black money for a 20% cut, then all we are left with is, Zilch plus lots of miseries for the poor and middle-class.

As a City dweller, I had quickly adjusted to the DeMonetisation. People in cities, adapted well. They used Paytm, MobiKwik, SBI Buddy, UPI, Credit/Debit Cards and shifted gears easily. Supporters of the move were quick to share Paytm payment QR codes flashed by Tea Sellers, Veggies Sellers etc.  It is true, I faced very less problems in the City, oblivious to the fact that there actually exists another India within this country.


Armed with Cards from three top banks, my mobile phone loaded with Paytm Wallet, I set out to my hometown in Gods Own Country– Kerala, the highest literate state. 15390734_1219213911519432_8279734669448398891_nWith that kind of literacy they must have surely embraced the DeMonetisation, so I thought. I paid for the taxi at the airport through my card. That evening, I asked a shopkeeper for card payment, he said “Sorry”; I asked “Paytm?”- He replied “What’s that?”,  So I let out my typical dialogue -“When will you learn to be a part of the Nation Building? How can one man Modi do everything? Don’t you want to do your bit to help people?” He replied – “Cheta (Elder Brother), please take whatever you want and pay me when you have the cash. We know your family, so we don’t have to worry. You are the first person who has asked for all these things. The poor people who come here don’t have all these cards and costly mobiles to do such E-payment.” I moved ahead. None of the Fish sellers had any such facility. When I asked one young fellow, he was quick to tell me, “Who is going to buy a new mobile for that. After all how much money do we make in this?” Then he added a few unprintable words.

The next day, I went to buy some cooking oil from the factory premises of one of the largest Coconut Oil mill in Kerala. A company that existed pre-independence since 1941 and now certified by ISO 9000:2000 standards. Naturally I expected card payment facility. The lady at the counter said, “No one pays by card. We still requested our bank to install one machine, it hasn’t been delivered so far. There is a shortage of these swipe machines”. I paid hard cash that I had earned by standing in Bank queues.

I went ahead to the biggest Chandha (market) in the town. Requested for the Card payment or Paytm. Again met with refusal. So I let out my favorite dialogue. The old man sitting in the counter told me, “People like you come once in a while. For that you expect me to have a swipe machine and pay rent for it and they take 2.5% from the billing. Here the poor come with just enough money to buy stuff they require. These things don’t work here. Go and Build your nation elsewhere”. Finally I found one shopkeeper ready to listen to me. I tried to install the Paytm App in his Samsung Duos, but it said No Space. I deleted a few apps and tried again. The download failed. He looked at me and said, “We will do this next time you come”. I had failed yet again.15400354_1221834867924003_3489486132585669168_n

Defeated in my efforts to drive sense to these people, I marched to the nearest bank where I have an account. There was hardly any queue. This bank has no queues because they have hardly any customers because they have just one branch in the Taluk HQ and the next branch is 20 kms away. Not many locals bank here. Hence no Queues. I presented my cheque of 10,000 and got a bagful of cash. Bundles of 10s, 20s, 50s. I told the lady, please take pity on me and give me 100s. She said “NO STOCK Sir”. I felt very rich that day with bundles in my bag. Earlier they just couldn’t even fill my pocket

The locals bank mostly with Cooperative Banks which are doing very well here unlike other states where they are generally scam ridden. Or the people bank with the most popular main stream Federal Bank, South Indian Bank, Dhanalakshmi Bank and State15036346_1518771561473079_8382943149879673242_n Bank of Travancore which have lots of branches in every town and some ATM’s in villages. The wait in those banks to get cash is four days. You go and present a cheque today, you get a token which mentions and time and date, 4 days later. What a pity!

The shortage of cash has put a lot of livelihoods in jeopardy…. Painters, Masons, Carpenters, Fishermen, Coconut Harvesters, Labourers are all suffering. Velu who is a mason’s assistant tells me that he has not found much work after November 8th. He was a busy man earlier with work available on Sundays too. Today he is eking out an existence doing odd jobs waiting for the day when the economy will improve and people will start employing him again.

I analysed why Kerala, the highest literate state has not gone the digital way with Plastic or E Wallet. The answer does not lie in the resistance by the people, but because of poor infrastructure. You hardly get a signal to talk in the mobiles, so getting an internet connection, to enable the electronic payment is out of question. Govt should have enabled the countryside to be wireless before they pulled the plug. The fault is with the poor infrastructure and not the people, and the fault lies solely with those who advised the PM without having any idea how the India outside its cities and towns function.

I hope our Nation will be able to rebound from the ill effects of DeMonetisation, because the Black Money has been converted to the new Black by collusion with few corrupt Bankers, and hardly any Counterfeit has been detected. So the twin aims of why we went in for DeMonetisation in the first place, seems underachieved so far. Truly as Dr. Manmohan Singh said, it seems to be really a case of – “Monumental Mismanagement”.

Today, I tend to believe that the whole exercise was indeed a Tughlaqi Farmaan especially for the poor rural folks! I only wish time proves me wrong!


Is it only the Armed Forces Responsible for Victory in War?

Everyone in our nation faced the DeMonetisation aftermath, whether they liked it or not, and most people supported the move, only for one aim- To weed out Black Money. Whether this would be successful or not is another story. The key Govt department responsible for this move – The RBI. It kept changing rules and regulations every day as it could not fathom neither the kind of logistical nightmare that it would face nor the way people would react each day. It was a kind of War which they fought with less resources and a large country. We are still surviving the aftershocks of this move.

Why was the RBI ill prepared? Why did the chaos happen? Why did the RBI not anticipate the logistics? The answer lies somewhere in Planning, Preparation, & understanding the numbers on ground and not on paper alone. This War could have easily been won had these been practiced when there was Peace around before the orders came. RBI could have learnt a lot from the Army how the Army plans for a War.


Pic: Courtesy Indian Express

Early December a new kind of problem emerged in West Bengal with the CM declaring that Army has moved into the streets and said it was akin to a Coup. She as usual accused her favorite punching bag, PM Modi. Army, she said had moved into Toll Booths and started collecting money without any information or permission from the State Govt. She refused to move out of her office to SAVE DEMOCRACY. Nothing could be far from the Truth. Army NEVER collects money, they collect DATA…… For what purpose is this data? Lets analyse.

What the Army did was a mere Civil Hired Transport impressment exercise. Every year the Army updates its plans in preparing for war. When an Army mobilises for War, it requires a lot of load to be carried towards the borders. With their own military trucks they can only carry about 30-40% of the loads.

To undertake a swift mobilisation, railways place a number of trains for the Forces on high priority. Civil Trucks are mobilised quickly to move the balance loads to the border areas. So, How does the Army know how many trucks can they mobilise? How much time would it take? How much distance do these trucks go before refueling? They get this information by carrying out exercises in various parts of the country, like they did in West Bengal and NE States in early December. They do this every year to understand how many trucks of which all sizes can they get in a given period of say 6-8 hours. This is a way to keep the data up to date and also to practice the personnel concerned how to do it right. Had the RBI done similar exercises in their domain, once in a while, we would have seen a smooth rolling out of DeMonetisation as well. I now hope you got the relation why I invoked RBI in the first place.

Does the Armed Forces just do an Exercise without informing any one? NO! The Army has to co-opt the civil administration, the police etc. for anything they do. Permissions are sought well in advance. In the case of West Bengal letters wereimg-20161203-wa0017 written to all concerned 7 days before the exercise by the Adm Commandant Col Surinder Mahani. In some places the Police had detailed their personnel and carried out joint reconnaissance too. I have had personal confirmation from the Army authorities regarding this.  The untruths propagated for political gains were exposed when these letters were released to the media by Maj Gen Sunil Yadav, General Officer Commanding Bengal Area, after a Press Meeting. Such exercises have been carried out regularly earlier too in Kolkata but there was never any smoke that time. Probably this time, the feedback to the politicians by the administration was either incorrect or coloured, or there was a heavy mistrust between the Govt at the State and Center.

The Armed Forces carry out a number of exercises throughout the year. They go regularly to Rajasthan, Punjab and other training areas to practice and prepare for War. In the process they also ensure extreme care is taken not to disrupt the civil life. After each such training, they take a NOC from the people involved. No Damage Certificates are taken from the Sarpanches or District Administration. Such exercises have happened for the past 70 years without any issue from any state. Therefore there should be no cause for worry for anyone.

Live Civil Hired Transport Impressment was done very effectively during 2001 when the Armed Forces mobilised for war during Operation Parakram. All the truck drivers supported the move and lived in the deserts under the Army care. The Army provided for their fuel, food and even repairs for their trucks. Being with many of them during those days, I was impressed by their spirit for the nation. They lived with us, dined with us, waiting happily till they were relieved by the Army. They were paid too as per the Govt orders on the subject. Hence this is nothing new to our country.

In a War, every single citizen is responsible for ensuring Victory for our nation. They should help the Army win it for them. They should also help in such preparations during peace so that the men in uniform win it during war.

Charles De Gaulle said- “Politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.” We the people should stand up and question these politicians who use the Army for petty gains.

So next time over, instead of bickering Why should we, it would be great if we can ask – How can we help the Armed Forces sharpen its axe.

I come back to my question: Is it only the Armed Forces Responsible for Victory in War? You know better. Don’t you?

Jai Hind!


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