Correction: Earlier, the headline and the copy said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is making headlines in Singapore for his demonetization move. That information is incorrect. We regret the error.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always been a huge fan of Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew. Last year, condoling Yew's demise, Modi had called him "a lion among leaders." While many of Modi's fans and followers view him as India's own Lee Kuan Yew, others have demurred, pointing out that Modi has not shown the Singaporean statesman's boldness of vision.
However, it looks like the Prime Minister has finally decided to prove his critics wrong. With his surprise currency demonetisation announcement, Modi may have pulled off a Lee Kuan Yew.
A senior Indian government official also equated Modi with Singapore's first prime minister. "From making up his mind to rolling it out, a new Lee Kuan Yew is born in India," the admiring official proclaimed. "It will be reflected in the legacy of this Prime Minister."
As the prime minister of Singapore for 31 years, Yew transformed the city-state into one of Asia's wealthiest nations. While he is known to have advocated market-friendly policies, his strict control over the press and any public protest made him unpopular with a section of people inside and outside Singapore.
Yew was known for his tough stance towards India but he did a turnaround later as was evident when he delivered the 37th Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture in November 2005 in New Delhi, which was titled, "India in an Asian Renaissance".
"Democracy should not be made an alibi for inertia," Lee had said, adding,"The real issue is whether any country's political system, irrespective of whether it is democratic or authoritarian, can forge a consensus on the policies needed for the economy to grow and create jobs for all, and can ensure that these basic policies are implemented consistently without large leakage."
While many are hailing Modi's "surgical strike" against black money, the common persons troubles are mounting in the absence of any cash for their day to day basic necessities.
With long queues in front of banks, and ATMs running dry, hundreds of people have still not managed to exchange their old currency notes or withdraw any money. In the five days since demonetisation was announced, at least 16 deaths as a direct consequence of the move have been reported. In 3 reported instances, infants died after hospitals refused to accept the now defunct ₹500 and ₹1,000 notes for their treatment.
Last year, while comparing Modi to Yew, a Business Standard article had made a point that resonates in these times: "To be recognized as India's Lee Kuan Yew, a leader should not only take decisive strides on economic front, but he must also take along the minorities and weaker sections."
Hopefully, the Prime Minister is mindful of this.
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