NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi enthralled a group of NRI’s in Japan---all cheering him on far away from India where they have little financial stakes now---by comparing the chaos on the streets of India with the Fukushima nuclear disaster! And returned to India to “break down” (as the media described it) saying he had left his family, his home to serve the nation.

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PM Modi in Japan

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PM Modi breaks down in Goa a day after his return

The PM’s Goa comments came in the midst of rising public anger, and questions from the Opposition as to whether the BJP and select others had been informed about the demonetisation before the decision was announced. This question has found itself into serious writing with economist Swaminathan Aiyar asking, Was the BJP tipped off about demonetisation? Did it convert cash into small notes and gold in advance, leaving other political parties with cash hoards requiring time and large discounts for laundering? Watch out for intense media investigation and speculation on whether the BJP has gained a big cash advantage in the coming state elections.”

Sources said that the RSS is now clearly worried about the feedback as sections of its own constituency are directly affected. Reports that the BJP knew of the decision---substantiated by specifics of a Rs 3 crore deposit made in a BJP bank account in West Bengal shortly before PM Modi’s announcement---has further fuelled the anger of the people lining up outside banks and ATMs for hours (sometimes days) to get basic money for daily expenses.

Drawing a comparsion not visible to many, just a couple of days ago PM Modi in Japan asked Indians to show the same ‘spirit of sacrifice’ as the Japanese had in dealing with the monumental nuclear disaster.

The PM also warned tax evaders that they would be found out and taught a lesson, even if he had to take their files back to Independence.

Now in Goa, confronted with rising public anger and opposition criticism, PM Modi while speaking at Goa first took delight in the fact that these big power brokers were now having to line up for Rs 4000 in the queues. And then went on to say that the people had voted for him to weed out corruption. “Shouldn’t I do it”, he asked insisting he felt the peoples pain.

After his brave words earlier Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has been compelled to admit that the ATMS are dry and it was take days, indeed weeks, to fill them with the required denominations. Of the 2 lakh ATMs across India, 1.2 lakh are said to be working but do not have the money to last beyond a few hours every day.

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Big vegetable and small trader markets have shut down, as the Sabzi Mandi in Delhi as it has no money to do business. Truck companies have been brought to a standstill as they have no money to pay for CNG that requires cash deposits. Millions are lying up to exchange their own money, with over-stretched banks rude and unhelpful. As a senior citizen, earlier with the government said, “it seems as if we are thieves, even though we are asking for our own money!” Several deaths have been reported of persons queuing up to exchange their money, or not receiving medical treatment for want of cash.

Clearly before the speech, shortly before taking off for Japan and leaving the country in complete mayhem, PM Modi and his colleagues had spent no time in even thinking out the jumlas. It is not clear who was the advisor, who was consulted before the move, as from all media accounts the Cabinet had little to do with it. The decision was announced on television by the Prime Minister himself, with no credit being given to any one else in his government for this major decision. And given the secrecy that now rules the corridors of power, little has emerged in concrete form as to when and how the decision was reached.

Economic experts covering the entire right to left spectrum---from Prabhat Patnaik in The Citizen to Swaminathan Aiyar in the Times of India---are agreed that the demonetisation will not curb black money. As Patnaik pointed out in his article, the target should be black money activities as the almost proverbial images of black money in matresses are just that...images. And as Aiyar has said, gold coins are the new black with middlemen helping the middle class secure its money, making black money perhaps even as one writes.

The gains are few, the losses huge. 70 per cent of India functions on unaccounted money, more so the small traders and the rural farmers. It is not clear how the PM was convinced that this one stroke of demonetising Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency would effectively end black money, quite forgetting his own party’s position taken before the last Lok Sabha elections, that demonetisation would only hurt the poor. This video has gone viral since and says actually what many are saying now:

In the midst of the chaos, reports suggest that the BJP is the only political party smiling its way to the bank A report from west Bengal is categorical about Rs three lakh crore being deposited in a party account just before the formal announcement by the Prime Minister. That the story was out is clear from The Citizen report quoting a Jagran news item of October 27 that had predicted the demonetisation, and the introduction of the new Rs 2000 note along with the design.

Opposition leaders including Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has been openly saying this. As has the Left now in West Bengal with evidence of the BJP bank account figures. Who knew? Was professional integrity observed?

The questions are not being answered, instead the hardship to the ordinary people continues. All have been presumed guilty, until they go to the banks to prove their innocence in a deliberately cultivated atmosphere of threat arising from the Prime Ministers spate of comments. In the process the banks, and the government, seems to have forgotten that those suffering lathi charge and harassment are not asking for favours, but for their own hard earned money.