#आओ_मोदी_चौराहे_पर (Come to face the justice, Modi) was trending on Twitter on Friday, November 8, the third anniversary of demonetisation.
The hashtag was in reference to a claim Prime Minister Narendra Modi made during a speech in 2016 when the country was reeling under the chaos of notebandi and the common people were facing unprecedented hardships in withdrawing their own money from the banks.
Speaking at an event then, Modi asked for “mere 50 days” to set things in order, failing which, Modi claimed, he was ready to come to “any square in the country” and face the punishment that the citizens may decide.
The fact is that the immediate chaos the ban on Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes unleashed could not be sorted even months after the decision was announced by PM Modi on national TV on November 8, 2016.
To this day, the country’s economy has not recovered from the debilitating blow the ill-conceived decision dealt to it. The informal sector and small industry has been ruined.
On Friday, people took pot shots at Modi and demanded that the Prime Minister fulfil his promise and come to the square to face the justice. Thye posted videos of how the common people had to brave unending queues for 8-9 hours and lathis of the police to withdraw their own money from the banks. More than 100 people died in the bank queues within a few days of demonetisation. One could not withdraw more than Rs 2,000 from the ATMs.
They also recalled how the government kept changing goalposts as one after another of its stated objectives behind the decision fell flat. It started as a “fight against the black money” and curbing the “parallel economy”, and traversed to “breaking the back of terror funding” to “turning informal sector into formal sector” to “cashless economy” to “less cash economy”.
However, three years after the decision, the country’s Gross Domestic Production (GDP) has come slid down to 5% and joblessness and unemployment are at an all time high. In fact, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, an economist, was almost prophetic in predicting the ill-impact of demonetisation on various sectors, including agriculture and the informal sector and on the overall economy.
He observed that 50 days might be a small period, but for the poor and the deprived, “even 50 days of torture can bring about disastrous effects”.
For more than a year, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the government persistently denied to part with information about how much money it had received back during the demonetisation window, always furnishing the template reply in response to RTI queries and questions in Parliament that the money was “being counted”.
When the figure finally came out, it turned out that about 99.9% of the scrapped currency (which amounted to around 14 crore) had come back to the RBI.
People alo took jibes at Zee News editor Sudheer Chaudhary who floated a rumour during one of his bulletin that the new Rs 2,000 currency notes had a chip in them that could track the notes of they were hoarded in large amount.