Prime Minister Narendra Modi, through an unscheduled television address to the nation at 8.15 pm on November 8, 2016 embarked on a tough decision to demonetize. He declared circulation of the then Rs.500 and Rs.1000 banknotes invalid and announced the issuance of new Rs.500 and Rs.2000 banknotes. This decision of his was well-intentioned. There is no questioning his intentions. By demonetizing, he intended to (a) stop counterfeiting allegedly being used to fund terrorism within the country, and (b) to crackdown on black money in the country. initially the citizens did not think twice about supporting this political move which stands a close second to the infamous Emergency clamped by former Prime minister Indira Gandhi, in terms of the ‘surprise element’ and resoluteness. The move had to be executed in utmost secrecy to checkmate black money hoarders, as well as a flourishing counterfeit industry across the border deep inside our not so friendly neighbor, Pakistan.
The move, no doubt meant untold misery to the citizens. Serpentine queues formed outside dried up ATM machines. Non-availability of notes of Rs. 500 and Rs.1000 had the common man with no legal tender to go about his grind of day to day living. The new Rs.2000 notes which came at a trickle remained just a piece of worthless paper, as it could not be exchanged for change of smaller denominations. Tourists were left helpless for lack of legal tenders.
However, the rich somehow managed to stay afloat, but the poor man’s life virtually came to a standstill. Smalltime traders and daily wage workers bore the brunt. My household helper, who is also a mason, still runs from pillar to post for his salary, which is reportedly being deposited in his bank account. The bank officers throw up their hand in helplessness when he approaches them for money which is just his- the reward of his blood having turned to sweat, to buy his daily bread. This is three months well past the Prime Minister’s demonetization move. There was much talk about cashless transactions and plastic money. In a country like India, how many people living in the hinterlands possess a debit or a credit card, leave alone a bank account? Farmers continue to be at the receiving end. Let us assume for a moment that these short-term pains must and was put up with, for long-term gains. The citizens are, and will only be happy to cooperate with the government if the intentions of Modi are indeed being realized. But are they, on the ground?
In West Bengal, the National Investigating Agency (NIA) made its first recovery of three fake currency notes of Rs.2000, which according to the officials were of ‘high quality’. Apart from this, there has been around half a dozen cases where fake counterfeit notes in the denomination of Rs.2000 were recovered. But these were of ‘inferior quality’, which were created out of Xerox machines! The three notes of high quality were seized from a native of West Bengal, already absconding in a two year old case of fake Indian currency smuggling. This man, when nabbed was on his way to hand over samples of counterfeit notes belonging to Rs.2000 to another fake notes racketeer, pointing to a well-established counterfeiting ‘system’ already in operation. The West Bengal police have also registered a case in connection with recovery of 40 fake rs.2000 notes, made by the BSF at the Indo-Bangladesh border, indicating sneaking in of counterfeit notes belonging to the new version, across the porous borders of India with her neighbors.
The police have also arrested three persons including a woman from Manipur pursuing her MBA, an engineering graduate and a property dealer from Ludhiana and recovered Rs. 42 lakh worth of counterfeit notes belonging to the new Rs.2000 from their possession at Mohali.
The Police also busted a counterfeit racket doing ‘business’ in Hyderabad, by arresting six who had with them counterfeit notes of Rs.2000 amounting to over 2 lakh. Of the Rs 2, 22,310 fake notes seized from the gang, Rs.2000 notes were worth Rs. 2, 10,000, the remaining made up by smaller denomination currency. The police also seized two color Xerox machines and Rs. 50,000 in cash among other incriminating material.
In Meerut, the police busted a gang of counterfeit note suppliers with the arrest of its two members and seizure of Rs. 10 lakh in Rs.2000 counterfeit notes. The main accused was the state President of a local party!
Intelligence and security forces including the NIA and the BSF have seized several counterfeit Rs.2000 notes that they believe came from outside India. The notes are believed to be manufactured in Pakistan and pushed into India through its border with Bangladesh.
Three persons were arrested from Karnataka on the charge of circulating Rs.2000 counterfeit notes. Initially, the Saraswathipuram Police arrested two persons, who were moving about suspiciously on a two-wheeler near Kavitha bakery. One of the arrested had 3, and the other 7 counterfeit notes belonging to Rs.2000 denomination. These arrests indicate undoubtedly that counterfeit notes belonging to the new Rs.2000 denomination are already ‘doing rounds’ in the country, manufactured within India by people who connive to foment antinational activities like Terrorism, and outside, being smuggled in across the porous borders by antinationals.
What are these counterfeit notes made for, or imported? They are meant to finance subversion within the nation- to wreak peace, to kill innocent citizens in the process, to instill terror, to hold to ransom internal security. Can’t legal currencies achieve these? They surely can, but you need stacks of them. You need to have counterfeit currency to pay the auto rickshaw driver, the rickshaw puller, the local chai wallah, the occasional politician, who form part of a large team that place a bomb ticking away inside a lunchbox placed on the carrier of a bicycle in a busy market. These local players, (read mainland terrorists) need to be paid in large amounts and in ‘ready cash’. Nothing comes cheap, especially terror! A well orchestrated terror drama enacted in 26/11, involves a whole group of determined, focused and indoctrinated individuals spewing hatred and violence, both Inside India and outside, and they need to be paid handsomely. An Ajmal kasab cannot be a lone actor in such a bloodcurdling drama.
Demonetization seems to have missed the mark. One of its purposes, that of containing counterfeit notes to contain terror remains elusive, not to talk about the other purpose to reign in black money hoarders. Why do counterfeit notes still operate inside India? Right under the noses of the so-called authorities? It is because these ‘authorities’ too are part of the malignant mechanism that begets terror. Remember, one of those arrested is the President of a local party. It is not that the ‘authorities’ are unaware of the goings-on beneath the surface. They pretend blindness on such situations. They are, apart from being blind, also deaf and mute. Rather, they are blinded, muted and deafened voluntarily for their survival. They know very well that they would cease to exist the next day if they see, hear, or talk things they are not supposed to.
Things will not improve simply by altering the dimensions, designs, and color of currency notes. Demonetization has been resorted to on earlier occasions. The very fact that a procedure need to be resorted to frequently talks about its innate weakness. Things will only improve if these local connivers, the mainland terrorists have a change of mind in a big way. How is that possible? It can be done, if they fear reprisal from a state that deals ruthlessly with antinational activities, that leaves no stone unturned uncompromisingly, whoever the crimesters may be, to have them punished ruthlessly. The nation needs to step outside narrow-minded considerations of standing up when the national anthem is being played, respect for the tricolor, and ban on cow meat. The nation needs to take on more urgent issues like terrorism, hatred for fellow Indians based on religion, caste and gender.