Monday, November 28, 2016

Demonetization of Notes – the alternative

You may wonder if the suffering of millions could have been avoided, while at the same hitting at black money. Consider the following alternative. Whether it would have had a major impact can be argued about, and there would be differing views. Make up your own mind.

Suppose fifty or so corrupt politicians and an equal number of corrupt officials are identified and raided during one week end. Further assume that those found with unaccounted wealth are arrested and prosecuted without fear or favour, in a special court to ensure speedy justice. Assume that such raids continue every month. We cannot fix a target for the number to be raided or arrested, but surely there are over a thousand at least who deserve to be investigated thoroughly. Otherwise, we might as well declare that India is as pure as Ganga jal and forget talking about black money!
Action of this kind would require very good intelligence. It would also require that India does not continue behaving like a soft state and is willing to take harsh measures when it is in the national interest. What is soft and what is hard? Would a soft state have made millions suffer by making them “cashless” and having their jobs threatened? Surprisingly, yes. A soft state tolerates a lot of suffering by the poor! The softness is all reserved for the rich and powerful!

I know a crackdown on the corrupt would make a few thousand families suffer. Does your heart bleed to think of that?

It is not too late to discuss this now. The soft alternative has been taken. The corrupt have temporarily escaped, while the whole population has paid a price for no fault their own, but you can still crack down on the corrupt. They might have converted their ill-gotten wealth into gold or new currency. If you make an example of a few hundred of them, the people who have suffered will feel that their sacrifice was not in vain. You cannot make Ganga jal pure in a day, a year, or even a decade. It will require that we shut down every single sewage drain that sullies that water. We will need similar sustained effort to make India corruption free.  

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