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Indian government’s demonetization step – the test of behaviors

It would be the prime accusation that, the Indian government under the current BJP rule was hasty in announcing, executing, and implementing the decision to demonetize 500 and 1,000 Rupee currency notes.  Does this accusation stand to reason?  Yes, it does stand to the reason guided by observation.  There is more to the faculty of reason, however.  There is exercise of reason that goes beyond self, or partisan politics, ambition, or relating to a particular system of belief; a sense of reason that seeks to see the common future with a bit of optimism.  For those, who are willing to exercise reason in its manifold expressions, the subject of demonetization of the Indian currency notes is far from over.

A test of reason beyond self

It would be safe to say, there was hardly a family in India that did not have some cash reserve in the form of the notes subsequently demonetized.  Before the implementation of digital technologies to track the income and expenditure of individuals, families, and others it would have been humanly impossible to determine if the use of the banknotes was legitimate and fulfilling legal requirements.  There would be endless personal stories of what cash means, and what would constitute its proper and improper usage.  And for those who do view cash (money) as expression of divine blessings, there is simply no way that reason or law alone could address the complexities in viewpoints!

A very simple observation thus comes to the fore in the post-demonetization period.  We have become used to employing our power of reason to serve our personal ends.  A phenomenon can be observed across society, freely evidenced on the Internet and social networks that, most people have a set objective and then reason only to satisfy that pre-determined objective.  Debates, arguments, discussions etc. fall into the unscientific practice of not letting the merit of a thought determine the conclusion, but rather have the personal objective determine what a conclusion should be.  This will always go flatly against employment of reason for truly noble goals.

Demonetization is the first step toward a noble goal.

Regardless of political convictions, one has to appreciate that the step to demonetize the Indian currency notes of 500 and 1,000 has a noble goal.  It is the first step.  One has to appreciate too, that a call has been sent out to rise above personal preferences and selfish interests; to think about something larger than one person, one family, or even one particular community.

It’s a first step, a very powerful step, a step that builds momentum.  The resistance to the possible aspirations borne out of demonetization is, evoked from fears and apprehensions too.  Thoughtful individuals and those conscious of painful lessons from history are justified in fearing the gathering of power in the hand of a charismatic leader.  In the case of India, it is Mr. Modi.  Had this been another time and place in history, that name would have been something else.  This fear and apprehension finds its answer in only one way: if the possible path after demonetization and the ideology behind it can be separated from a particular party, or the leader of the party, then this momentum can move forward without having a defining person as leader.  Already it can be seen, individually convinced members of society support the idea, and many have an understanding of the effects of demonetization.  What is sometimes lacking is, an open-mindedness to see both sides of the issue, giving a fair hearing to supporters and opposers.

Please consider the implications of not following a leader or a party in the interest of refining a society, cleansing it of the said evils of corruption, terrorism, and “black money”.  Once the people in the Indian democracy have understood the idea, they are then able to understand and articulate the idea apart from one leader or party.  This would not have been easy until the age of social media and independent reporting.  Even so, the interests of individuals and institutions do get revealed over time, not when they stand to benefit but when they stand to lose something of personal value.  It is then that, personal conviction in the value of honesty and social justice is proven.

To hoard, to feel safe, to gather for the future

It is human ability and foresight, to think of the future.  It is a human ability and responsibility, to save for oneself and one’s family.  ‘Demonetization of the favorite cash-hoarding denomination affected only the rich, not the lower-income group’ – that is a grossly incorrect supposition!  Women at home and even children would have gathered what they could of some cash, to save for the future.  Poor people, migrant laborers, and farmers would have done the same.  Why?  In the belief that they are saving for the future.  Others were hoarding (not saving) large sums, not with such a simple mindset of personal security, but satisfying greed at the expense of fellow members of society and functioning of the government.

Practices that led to the forming of a shadow economy/parallel economy are not all rooted in malice.  A lot of those transactions and business practices are simply a reflection of the culture, education level, social setup, and belief-systems.  Having said that, on the grand scale, it is the functioning of the nation and of larger society that suffers.  Of course, individuals suffer too!  There is simply no way to track these kinds of inequities and malpractices.  Those who suffer disadvantage have little or no recourse because of outdated cash-transaction practices.  While it may be not so difficult to come up with a final list of all the way cash is/can be misused by individuals and society, the step of demonetization in itself expresses a desire toward a changed way of doing things.

The government is not against saving, for one can still do it in legitimate ways, but the desire is for transparency.  The desire is to bring all money into the visible, traceable, transparent, honest workings of economy.  The introduction of PAN and then the most comprehensive Aadhaar program ties all persons and their economic activities to points of references.  Should one resist the activities and intentions of the government, regardless of who the ruling party is?

Governments of various countries have throughout history acted in ruthless and inconsiderate ways, in ways that an individual simply has the possible thought for but not the means or power to do.  Going by the logic of self-preservation alone and total distrust, a person would conclude that being a hermit and living in total isolation is the answer.  The other conclusion would cause one to believe, there should be no government or society!  So are we going the direction of reason, preservation, and progress with these kinds of thoughts?

If man is an expression of the Divine, and has the potential to express the qualities of love, wisdom, and justice that the Creator Himself has…such men should be recognized and given the chance to lead us through times of challenge and difficulty.  If demonetization of 2 banknotes worth 500 and 1,000 Rupees is thought of as a first, practical expression to bring about change – limited as humans are in the ways and means available – then, society at large should feel a renewed sense of optimism.  We should feel a sense of optimism that we have possibilities for the future.  Even if those possibilities fall short of expectations, we cannot help but appreciate what ingenious ways man is capable of!

If demonetization of 2 banknotes worth 500 and 1,000 Rupees is thought of as a first, practical expression to bring about change – limited as humans are in the ways and means available – then, society at large should feel a renewed sense of optimism.

The behaviors for the future

If we personally envision a future where, people have at least the hope of a chance to survive and have opportunities then, redistribution of wealth is absolutely essential.  While it may not be possible to absolutely abandon the ideals enclosed in capitalism, there is also scope in society to have socialistic ideas to balance personal incentive with social justice.

We are looking forward to a time when, mankind will finally see the answer for its desires.  Questions will be answered: What is more important than money?  Is the preservation of life truly a goal of human governments, and if so which ones prove it to be so?  What ideals is human society founded on?  Can hope and answers come through the instrument of political will?  Can society be reformed by the instrument of wealthy?

One anticipated behavior from humans is, we should be happy to see the success of others.  Those who are not, have something evil in their own heart and the malice catches up with them ultimately.

The opportunity to give personal answers is with us.  To receive praise for honesty and integrity is a possibility, and so is the shame for greed and selfishness.  The step to demonetize 2 banknotes symbolically accomplishes more perhaps, than it has in actual practice, but it is upon these symbols and ideas that we have built the material realities of our daily existence.

People standing in queues outside Axis bank
People standing in queues outside Axis bank

Behaviors that stand as example to the world

The whole world saw the patience and fortitude of the common people of India when, they endured and stood in long queues outside banks and post offices across India.  I am sure, it would have looked rather foolish or ludicrous to many here or in Western lands.  Others would have been amazed, and some would have been astonished.  Yes, it also became common knowledge that many burnt their banknotes or threw them on the streets and in rivers rather than, give them to the needy or honestly declare what they had.  It all became a huge theatrical spectacle!

It is at this time, appropriate to remember those who believe in judgment from the True One, the Maker of mankind.  If there are judgments that come through governments as expressions of reform of human society, one cannot stop people from believing that the courage and wisdom to act came from a source other than human.  If someone is unwilling to believe so, and sees all these actions (as demonetization) as a government action of the human realm, we still honor the powers a government has in democratic set ups.  To make a hasty connection with the Divine will is of course, not advised.  Only with passage of time and some serious consideration would we understand how, great powers can be at work in seemingly ordinary people’s lives.

Could we hope for a more participative government set up where, by virtue of appointment a person does have authority of a leader, but that same leader sets an example in following the laws?  It revolutionizes the idea of a leader, the way it has been working in democracies for a long time.  If a leader, at personal loss, gives an example for society to follow, the prospect of justice would be a powerful motive for the people to show patience and optimism.

The future is greatly resting on how, common people stand to support leadership.  The people have been empowered by the Internet.  The power of the people is in the very hope that, the leadership is able to inspire; and that community succeeds where, the leadership and the people learn the secret of mutual respect and teamwork.  The behaviors based on hope will be positive, but behaviors based on anger and fear will bring disastrous results for the leadership and the great human community.  We hope, that our hope is real!

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