I've often had queries saying, "I have been forced to divorce my spouse... I didn't want this. Now I'm in a terrible situation." The demonetisation of ₹500 and ₹1000 notes makes me feel much the same way.
While the move to combat black money has earned much applause, the shoddy implementation has been a cause of alarm to most of us. Legally speaking, the rollout of demonetisation has trampled three fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution of India under Article 19(1) (g),Article 21, and Article 25. In simple words these are the right to livelihood, right to life and right to practice your religion.
I'd say loss of life qualifies as more than the "minor inconvenience" that the prime minister had told us to expect.
The majority of the people in India, except for perhaps our politicians, have been put under incredible strain, with more than 50 people reportedly losing their lives as a result of demonetisation — I'd say loss of life qualifies as more than the "minor inconvenience" that the prime minister had told us to expect.
I have had to give rations from my home to my house help and office boys because they don't enjoy the luxury of the industry heads who have hailed the move — perhaps they have neither the courage nor the vision to see/state the obvious: people are suffering on a daily basis. Perhaps these honchos have enough stock/reserves of everything to last them for a long time, but most people don't.
What's frustrating is that this move could have been implemented better with moves such as:
The banks should have been open 24x7 for the next 15 days at least so as to not cause a sense of economic scarcity and the fear of the unknown in the minds of those impacted. India is not at war with Pakistan or any other country to have merited such an action. Those who experienced Emergency, imposed by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, say that the two situations are nightmarishly similar.
The ATMs should have stopped dispensing ₹500 notes from 1 October — this is a season of festivals and as a result cash withdrawals tend to be higher. A gradual phasing out would have hit the average citizen less hard.
Government offices should serve as bank counters and all Central government employees should have been have deployed for at least one week to accept old notes and dispense new ones. Other "bodies" and offices which are directly or indirectly connected to the government of India should have also been entrusted with this task.
Even government authorised milk booths should have been converted to cash counters and set up for at least one week to accept and dispense old notes.
There should not have been a mandatory procedural ID check for those depositing and withdrawing money from their own accounts in their own banks.
There should not have been any restrictions on the amount of money that can be withdrawn from the banks or ATMs.
Every bank account holder in India should have been sent credit and debit cards starting from 31 March 2016.
A holiday should have been declared for the next day and the schools and teachers should have been deployed as a task force for dispensing adequate funds — after all, they lend their services in a similar manner during elections.
Debit and credit card machines should have been installed at railway stations, buses, stations etc. to buy tickets.
This move could have been implemented at a time when we are not in the middle of the wedding season (October-January), where transactions happen mostly in cash.
Winter is also peak tourist season, with the prime minister as the biggest brand ambassador of India. Now, imagine the plight of the tourist who has no money except in 500s or 1000s and no place to exchange traveller's cheques etc. She/he neither has a bank account, nor are many ATMs functional nor does she have any friends who she can borrow from. The dream holiday has turned into a nightmare.
Usually households stock vegetables for around three to four days. In such a situation, all grocery stores should have been told to accept old notes so that basic needs would have been met.
It's also worth noting that 55% of establishments in India currently do not accept plastic and digital money. This is a situation that could have been actively addressed before the announcement of demonetisation was made.
This move affects my right to life and right to livelihood and other rights guaranteed to me under the Constitution of India.
Today, more than 200 million people — largely daily wage labourers, domestic helps, vegetable vendors and other marginalised sections of society — do not even have a bank account and thus no access to luxuries such as plastic money. There is no solution except for them to go to the black market and sell their notes for half price or borrow from friends and relatives, which in India we can count on. Also, the truth is that we are a cash-intensive economy and most people do not use cards.
It is not a "minor" inconvenience when I cannot get to work or run my business or pay for my basic necessities. This move affects my right to life and right to livelihood and other rights guaranteed to me under the Constitution of India. This is how I am sure a forced divorce feels.
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