Writing in the The Economic Times today, columnist Swaminathan Aiyar has lashed out at two leading two leading economists, Jagdish Bhagwati and Amartya Sen, over their opinions on the Modi government's demonetisation drive.
In an opinion piece published in The Times of India, last week, Bhagwati, economics professor at Columbia University, wrote that given the element of surprise which was at the heart of the demonetisation drive, and its magnitude, "the rollout of the policy has generated predictable hardships."
In response, Aiyar wrote, "Paranoia about secrecy led to insufficient thinking and avoidable disasters....Sorry, the hardships were magnified hugely by incompetence. Elementary maths would have shown that printing enough new notes to replace the old would take six to seven months."
"It was asinine to change the size of the new notes, shutting down ATMs designed for the old notes. People have died standing in unnecessarily long queues, and that cannot be shrugged off as 'predictable hardships'," he wrote.
Aiyar wrote, "You play down the pain of the cruel mini-recession created by demonetisation. Livelihoods have been battered. Many small business may die"
In an interview with NDTV in November, Sen, Nobel Laureate and Bharat Ratna, described demonetisation under Prime Minister Narendra Modi as "despotic and authoritarian."
In response, Aiyar wrote, "The man certainly merits castigation for acts that threaten secularism and liberal dissent, like violent attacks on beef eaters and 'anti-national' protesters. But such evils exist in many democracies, and hardly imply despotism."
"Ever heard what real despots do? Are Hitler and Stalin infamous for dreadful things like demonetisation? Did Ivan the Terrible earn his nickname through terrible monetary policy? Opposition chief ministers Nitish Kumar and Naveen Patnaik, often critics of Modi, have nevertheless supported demonetisation. Are they despots too?" he wrote.
Aiyar wrote, "You say by breaking the promise to pay on currency notes, Modi has despotically broken the trust that democracy and capitalism depend on. Oh my, what innocence! Constitutional rights and guarantees are violated every day. Voters in bank queues view politicians as rogues and thieves who constantly violate pledges, but still see India as democratic, and mostly praise Modi for actually delivering something."
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