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A week into the government's move to demonetise higher currency to curb black money, the public's woes continue. At least 33 people have died in the past seven days in reaction to the policy change — some while waiting in serpentine queues to get their cash exchanged, others from the shock of the worry, and a few, tragically, due to lack of healthcare from the shortage of currency. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to be in denial mode, claiming only the corrupt rich have been affected by his decision. A chorus of voices from the political establishment has joined him in condemning citizens who are complaining and the media which is exposing their plight. Ruling politicians may rage and rant, but the evidences to the contrary are plentiful, with millions of people, especially the poorest of the poor, facing untold miseries.
G. Pramod Kumar explains why demonetisation violates the fundamental right to life, enshrined in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which stipulates, "no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law". By examining legal history, he concludes, "There is no gainsaying that black money erodes India of its credibility, wealth and even morality, but it's not a good enough reason to burn your house to fright the mouse away."
In spite of the trials of ordinary citizens and the rush of complaint, a few good samaritans are doing their best to ease the woe of those who are stuck in long queues or stranded without cash. From free treatment in hospitals to serving tea and food, these instances of kindness have been the silver lining in the last one week.
The Times of India reports, quoting an intelligence officer, that demonetisation has halted the flow of cash into the coffers of militants and terrorists. Since the scraping of ₹500 and ₹1,000 currency notes, hawala channels have run dry and funding of violence and other destructive activities has taken a hit — "though this could be partially on account of normalcy having returned to the valley prior to demonetisation", the unnamed official said.
The Parliament's winter session, which begins today, is expected to see a storm of protest from the Opposition to the government's move to demonetise high value bank notes. Although PM Modi has urged all parties to act as a united front against corruption and black money, the opposition has come together against his decision, calling it a "currency scam".
The government has banned controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik's NGO, Islamic Research Foundation, for five years, calling it an "unlawful organisation". Naik already had criminal cases filed against him for making "objectionable and subversive" speeches. The ban, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and approved at a meeting of the Union cabinet, is to be enforced with immediate effect.
Off The Front Page
Speaking at Mint's Global Banking Conclave, former Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor D. Subbarao has said that any move by the Indian government to treat currency that is not surrendered during the ongoing demonetisation process as profit will be "ill-advised". "Then demonetisation will be viewed as being done with other motives, rather than fighting black money," he said.
A month has passed since Najeeb Ahmed, a graduate student at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), went missing after an altercation with members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). But no trace of him is yet to be found by the police. In spite of the university authorities warning to the contrary, over 350 students marched with Ahmed's mother demanding justice for him in the capital.
A small village in the Sunderbans has neither banks nor ATMs. Faced with demonetisation, the inhabitants of Ghoramara have improvised their own system to run their lives. Read this report in The Hindu to know more.
In Mint, Sandeep Khanna addresses President-Elect Donald Trump's threat of getting rid of Indian workers from the information and technology (IT) sector in the US. "I want to scrap all H-1B visas," he even went on to say in one of his campaign speeches. But the reality presents a far more complex picture. Most jobs taken up by Indians could not have gone to Americans because not enough of the latter are qualified to do them. "Corporate America needs Indian engineers," Khanna writes. "If Trump wants evidence of that he need look no further than the two poster boys of US tech excellence, Google and Microsoft, both of which are headed by Indian engineers."
In The Indian Express, Neelkanth Mishra says irrespective of the short-term inconveniences, demonetisation might cause a longer lasting damage to black money. "If successful, it can catapult India from the low equilibrium of low taxes/small government to a higher equilibrium seen in more developed economies," he writes. "But the associated disruption can be painful in the interim and the uncertainty would test the patience of many an observer."
In the Hindustan Times, Sanjeev Sanyal observes the steady rate at which idols and antiquities have been plundered from India since 1980. Over three decades at least 20,000 idols, sculptures and such objects have been stolen and sold in foreign countries. In the market, their combined estimated value is $10 billion but "in cultural terms, many of the pieces are priceless". Looking at the existing legislations and safeguards against such rackets, he concludes, "It is not enough to end the plunder of our antiquities. We need to let our gods return home." The only way to prevent future theft, he says "is to document them carefully in a publicly accessible National Antiquities Register".
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