<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Some of the harsher critics of PM Modi and the BJP tend to claim that neither of them have ever read a book. It’s an elitist argument made either by eminent historians or disillusioned veterans who can’t get used to change of guards and appears untrue based on the events proceeding the November 8 announcement because someone out there seems to be a huge Kafka fan.The sheer number of rule changes since November 8 has left all of us feeling a little like the bank cashier Josef K, the protagonist of The Trial, who was unexpectedly arrested by unidentified agents for an unspecified crime and then underwent a trial without knowing his crime. Or maybe sitting somewhere in a dark corner, cashier Josef K’s real-life counterpart is just messing with the rest of us to right the wrongs he faced in a fictional world.So far, the sheer number of rule changes and announcements from the institutions involved in demonetization – the RBI, Finance Ministry and PMO – has made us wonder whether they really had a plan in place. The only reason, this hasn’t descended into complete chaos is the charisma of a Prime Minister who the people of this nation trust to do the right thing. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t become exasperating. The latest rule change in the great demonetization game (at the time of writing) came in the form of a cryptic circular from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on December 19 stated that we’d only be given one opportunity to deposit amounts greater than Rs 5000 before December 30. In the RBI’s own words: “The credit in such cases shall be afforded only after questioning tenderer, on record, in the presence of at least two officials of the bank, as to why this could not be deposited earlier and receiving a satisfactory explanation. The explanation should be kept on record to facilitate an audit trail at a later stage.” In a stroke of one press release, amount under scrutiny was brought down from a staggering Rs 2.5 lakh to a paltry Rs 5000. No matter which way you put it, this sounds a lot like having to explain to two faceless bank officials why one didn’t deposit money before December 30 even though we’d been clearly told we had all the time in the world to deposit our notes. The PM in his November 8 address had clearly stated: “Persons holding old notes of 500 or 1,000 rupees can deposit these notes in their bank or post office accounts from 10th November till close of banking hours on 30th December 2016 without any limit. Thus, you will have 50 days to deposit your notes and there is no need for panic.”In the same vein, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said on November 12: “Don’t rush to the banks right now, for exchanging or withdrawing old Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes as there are massive crowds. Wait for a few days as the scheme is open till December 30.”That we must ‘explain’ our own money to faceless officials is quite worrisome and in some ways, is reminiscent of an era of licence raj when a morally ambiguous official’s arbitrary judgement could mean the difference between getting work done and going home empty-handed. And given the spate of adventurism of bank officials and babus, who’ve proven to be the weakest link in the demonetization drive, what’s to say a person can’t deposit their money or hide their ‘audit trail’ after giving a little under the table.As if that wasn’t enough confusion, Arun Jaitley’s press conference later that night showed that the FinMin and RBI have all the communication skills of a newly married couple as he said: “If they go and deposit with bank any amount of currency no questions are going to be asked to them and therefore the 5000 rupee limit does not apply to them if they go and deposit it once. “But if they are going to go everyday and deposit some currency, same person, that gives rise to suspicion that where is he acquiring this currency from. In that event a person may have something to worry about. Therefore everyone is advised whatever old currency you have please go and deposit it now,” he said. And since there is no scope now for earning any old currency because all exemptions have been waived, it makes sense to go deposit all the holding in one go, Jaitley said. “This is the objective of the order passed today.”Law and IT minister RS Prasad went on to cause further confusion when he said: “They (RBI) have issued something, the government will come with structured response on that.” And this wasn’t just talk as a colleague realised as she had to explain why she had Rs 6,000 to 10 different people. It really leaves you wondering what’s next. Show proof that one has sung the nation anthem with gusto at a movie theatre before depositing the money? Prove that one has shared at least five Facebook posts praising the Indian Army?Politics and policy implementation is about perception and even though the intentions behind demonetization are well-meaning, the implementation has left us all bewildered. In some ways, PM Modi’s November 8 speech now feels a lot like Neo’s address to the machines at the end of The Matrix where he tells them: “You’re afraid of change. I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin.” It seems even the institutions involved in demonetization only knew how it was going to begin, and have absolutely no clue how this is going to end.
Originally posted here: