Demonetization thy name is division

Everywhere one looks in India these days currencies are running low and passions are running high. The country’s intelligencia are tapping out a tormented tango on their keyboards of “you’re either with us or you’re against us”.

But this is hardly the language of intelligent discourse and better suited to the likes of the Shiv Sena (while… they too have done quite some good for Mumbai, because without them the city might have far fewer flyovers).

Mr. Modi is certainly the man of the moment — and possibly the best alternative around—thanks in no small part to the Congress’s steadfast attempt to maintain a vacuum, and wait for every living human to fail just so one very incompetent individual may finally ascend to lead India.

The present government needs to be supported, but it also needs to be held accountable for outcomes not just initiatives.

That black money needed to be eliminated was obvious, but did it need to be done in a manner which has interrupted the country’s growth and legislative trajectory is the question. Could the same outcomes have been achieved through innovative tax reforms or higher investment in compliance and vigilance measures?

Without political funding reform new cash will eventually flow in to replace the old. Why is the government insistent that the people go completely digital and cashless while it continues to accept unaccounted cash donations at the party level? Even if other parties don’t support the legislation, if the BJP voluntarily fell in line that would go such a long way to leading by example.

A radical change has been announced without an adequate plan of action for efficient change management. The lack of planned scenarios to deal with exigencies and crises is driving up anxiety and diminishing confidence. The country is being forced to settle instead for a decision-a-day approach where there is still little predictability for what the future holds from one day to the next.

Doing the wrong thing, or doing the right thing in a very wrong way is almost as bad, if not worse, than doing nothing — especially in a country like India where things all hang in a delicate balance. The lack of clarity in execution might result in the undoing of the initiative, as well as the government’s days in power, if they don’t fix cash liquidity problems and fast. As a supporter of the government, this possibility worries me almost as much, as that would only lead to further gridlock.

People are trying to stay patient and positive which in the long run may be the country’s best hope absent adequate advance planning. The burning question is: will black money finally be wiped out or will it simply reemerge over time, only this time in easier to hoard 2000 rupee notes? This has nothing to do with demonetization and much more with how successfully the government can re-engineer Indian fiscal DNA through secure cashless transactions combined with tax compliance across the spectrum from daily groceries to high value areas like real estate.

It is time for us to realize that effectively we all want the same thing. An honest existence and a fair return for our hard work.

The worry is that the current demonetization is in danger of doing about as much to root out corruption in India in the long run, as the Sea Link has done to help speed up the commute from Colaba to Andheri. Sure it’s good to finally have something done, but it’s too little, possibly the wrong approach to solve the city’s long term transportation crisis, and not too well planned or executed to date. I for one will be thrilled to be proven wrong and certainly relish that possibility.