Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation drive is implemented poorly, as critics as well as many common citizens will agree. May be process was difficult. Yet, most people see in Prime Minister Modi a person, who is
- really working hard;
- not trying to benefit his family and friends;
- trying to bring change in the face of huge obstruction;
- offering a vision of different India to people;
Critics of Narendra Modi and opposition politicians are not thinking like Modi. There is a qualitative difference in thought process between Modi and opposition leaders. Most politicians are stuck in politics of retaining power. Modi is thinking “if I cannot do anything for people, what is the point in staying in power?” Most politicians are trying to highlight how lives of common people have become difficult. Modi is telling them how he can change peoples lives forever.
Since independence, people of India have faced a lot of difficulty most of the time. So difficulty is not new for them. Hope, however, is novel. People can also see someone has staked everything for a different India against a powerful opposition. People are most likely excited about change, about vision of a new India, that is why despite numerous difficulties and set backs in personal lives, majority of people appear to bear with Modi.
To beat Narendra Modi, political opposition has to think differently. Opposition has to show something bigger and better. Opposition, however, lack imagination and courage.
Only people of India can defeat Mr. Modi. That is why Mr Modi is appealing to people. So far people have been listening. I hope Mr. Modi has more cards up his sleeves for the next round. Time will tell.
In a situation where government and opposition political parties are competitively trying to project themselves to be the saviours of common man, I think onus lies on government and its machinery to be better prepared and deliver. A decision of this magnitude needs a picture perfect execution. Otherwise, a bold vision has every possibility of being turned into a terrible nightmare.
It seems most neutral observers believe that intent of the move is good. Implementation is not so good. Given the size of Indian black economy move was necessary. But this move of demonetisation cannot be end all, it has to be backed by other systemic changes. What is important to note is Modi has staked his chair for something he believes in. He did not want to beat around the bush and simply do nothing. Prime Minister has done well by going to the people and making an effort to explain his side of the story.
A very common argument put forward are as follows:
- Poor people are not familiar with banking system.
- Most villages do not have any bank. So what are people living in villages going to do?
- Government did no prepare before it introduced the decision.
India has 700, 000 villages of varying population density. In last few years since the present government came to power, 22 crore or 2200 lakh, Jan Dhan accounts have been opened. This means nearly 200 – 300 individuals from each family were introduced to banking system. If one family has a minimum of 4 members, conservatively 80 crore people would have access to banking system. Each Jan Dhan account is a zero balance account, it comes with a Rupay debit card and 30, 000 rupees accident insurance.
Government had tried to transfer cash benefits directly to Jan Dhan accounts. UPA government had introduced MGNREGA program. According to this program one family member of each family will be guaranteed a minimum 90 days work per year. Average daily wage for MGNREGA is about 160 rupees per day. Government transfers the wage to account of the worker. So at least some people in rural area knew how to access banking system. Given the bank was 20 km away from their home was not an impediment before and should not be an impediment now.
People who did not open an account or did not put their money in the account also got wage of Rs. 160 per day. This amount is much lower than 500 rupee currency note that has been demonetised. It is curious to know a person what gets 160 per day, why would he be seriously affected by lack of 500 rupee or 1000 rupee currency notes? Rural poor deal in currency of smaller denomination and that currency remains intact. Those who have some currency they can get them exchanged from a bank.
It appears government did some preparation after all to help people. The question that needs to be asked very seriously, if our politicians are so concerned about poor, why after seventy years villagers have to walk 20 km to reach the nearest bank? Why people still are illiterate and what has been done to improve their lot?
Chief Minister of West Bengal was so anguished by currency demonetisation, that she wrote a poem describing how cruel central government move on demonetisation was. It is strange, however, in her own state when people lost their lives savings due to Sharada Chit Fund scam, honourable chief minister did not compose any poem. In Sharada scam, members of chief ministers party were involved. It seems deep agony brings poet out of a human. Kalidasa, the great poet, was moved by death of a crane when a hunter shot it. Our chief minister was also pained, but her agony was directed at her own misery because her election funds have turned into paper.
Such a drive that involves 1.2 billion lives need meticulous planning and execution. So far what I have seen, the whole approach lacks in implementation and execution. For two days I stood for two plus hours outside a private bank. I did not get any money. Cash always ran out. I could deposit my 500 rupee notes on the first day. To top the misery, ATM machines were also not functional for first two days. The third day machines started giving cash, but cash finished after 2 – 3 hours. How can cash finish if every person is allowed to withdraw on 2000 rupees each time?
I am surprised how can cash run out when hardly 30 – 60 customers have been served? That too at a measly sum of Rs. 10000 per person, if all customers had gone for withdrawal of their a single day quota. I am sure this was not the case, as many people were there to simply exchange, where they get Rs. 4000 maximum.
I am well off by Indian standard. I have access to other means of transaction like credit cand, digital money, cheque etc. I may be inconvenienced if I do not get money. But I shall not be helpless altogether. But that may not be the case for many others. They lose work, they lose wage, they stand in line but do not get any money. My banker friend said it may take 7 – 10 days for system to stabilise.
As I rue my predicament, I heard congress VP Mr Rahul G ask people standing in queue “do you see any crorepati industrialist or a person in suit-boot standing in queue?” That is a valid question. When I talk to my bank manager friend about shortage of cash and long queue, he told me “come to my branch, I shall arrange everything.” I insisted on standing in queue. May be I shall change my mind if I do not get any cash the third straight day. But it got me thinking. Rich people may have many options:
• They may have people in payroll to address this kind of contingency;
• Rich may have access to many more transaction options;
• Rich may have preferential relationship with bank. Whereby, banks may supply money to their home. May be that is why banks run out of money fast;
• I heard on TV, many ministers talk to bank manager and get expedited treament! while common people sweat it out.
I thin bank must issue tokens to its customers. Bank knows how much money it has. Bank can calculate how many clients they can serve. They can ask rest of the people to go home. If there is any leftover after serving the first batch, bank can start the process of distribution again. This may at least minimise hassle of standing for 2 hours and then come to know that cash has finished. As it appears, execution lacks imagination and planning.
A few years back during a political rally in one of the major cities a main arterial road was blocked. As a result, a patient could not reach hospital in time and died waiting for road to clear. When challenged, unapologetic politicians claimed it is our democratic right to protest.
Busy national highways become casualty to protestors of different hue. Protestors forget that travellers have nothing to do with their protest. Travellers get caught in the middle of nowhere without food, water or even money. A typical case was of Jat agitation demanding reservation. Delhi Sirsa highway was blocked with logs of woods and people were sitting in the middle of the road. There were armed police who did not interfere, lest government be called undemocratic. What a farce?
Recently, politicians flocked to a hospital in Delhi to express their condolences to family of a soldier who had committed suicide due to perceived inaction by government of the day. Politicians often do not come alone. They are usually accompanied by gun totting security guards and hangers on. When police swung into action and stopped and/or detained politicians, there was a lot of noise about democracy being under threat in India. Though motive behind not letting opposition politicians from aggrieved family members may also be political, a few questions beg answer:
• Does visit of places like hospital where sick people come, not create inconvenience to ordinary people that are not well?
• Why could politicians not invite the aggrieved and mourning family members to their offices or even visit their native place? Probably photo opportunity would be missed.
• It is also strange that how select aggrieved families get access to phone numbers of important politicians who are more than eager to pay respect and address people about perceived impropriety of government. Whereas common people get beaten up by goons on the street or women get assaulted does not know whom to turn to.
When are we going to be a mature democracy, where we can protest without inconveniencing others? India may be a vibrant democracy, is it a mature democracy? Here a lonely voice is seldom heard. Law here is a prisoner of politicians and order is sulking. Long live Indian democracy.
Exact reason behind Mr. Mistry’s removal is not out in the open. There are many opinions for and against the dramatic decision. Many had questioned ethics of firing chief executive so abruptly. Mr. Mistry has also shot a letter to board of directors, which he also leaked to media, claiming lack of independence in running the organisation and many perceived impropriety in past decision made by last chairman. No one can doubt integrity of Mr. Ratan Tata. He is considered a legend. By his own admission, Mr. Ratan Tata considered Mr. Cyrus Mistry to be a humble human being. Infact, this quality was one of the reasons Mr. Mistry was chosen as successor to Mr. Tata. It is unfortunate that two people fell apart.
According to Mr. Mistry, he had inherited a business that was haemorrhaging from several sites. Mr. Mistry wanted to get rid of loss making business ventures of Tata group and improve profitability. What Mr. Cyrus Mistry did as chairman of Tata Sons was absolutely correct. It was his job to do the right thing. It should be remembered though, despite, most Tata group of companies ran on the slow lane, Tata group has always paid dividend to her share holders. Infact, it was during tenure of Mr. Mistry dividend amount was slashed.
But, Tata group of business is run by Tata trusts, which holds majority 66% shares. “Tatas buy institution, not business”, as some would say. With institution comes people, their emotion, their need for a job, and responsibility to put food on table. Many Tata group of companies were under performing. Yet, overriding philosophy of Tata group of companies is to weather bad times and turn around a loss making company.
Clash most likely is over philosophy of running the Tata group of companies. Should profitability be the guiding light or social responsibility may also play a role? Mr. Tata conceived Nano car when he saw a family of four riding a scooter on a rainy day. He wanted to do something for this segment. Nano may be non profitable. But it has deep sentiment attached with it. JRD Tata started Tata Airlines which was nationalised post independence. Mr. Rata Tata may have tried to revive family legacy when he invested in Air Asia.
In this battle of ideologies, nothing else is really of consequence – performance, integrity, hardwork, cashflow. Only thing that matters is company values and thought process. One can question operational strategy of Tata group, can one really question the sentiment? If sentiment is lost, the whole philosophy of the group may fall apart. That is the fight, to retain philosophy.