Writer’s block Society

Why did you use cannon to kill a fly!

Thirteen years ago, George W. Bush and Tony Blair set out to get rid of a man whose face they didn’t like and to occupy the oilfields he sat on. To justify their action they told the world that the man — Saddam Hussein, the President of Iraq — possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and posed the greatest threat to mankind.

They caused mass destruction of Iraq but found no WMD, had Saddam hanged anyway and then returned to their daily lives as if nothing had happened. Each went on to win another term in office. No one asked them, “Hey, where are the weapons of mass destruction you were talking about?” Those who asked were people who did not matter — the world doesn’t care about people who do not matter.

India today is somewhat like the Iraq of 2003. The Government believed that some of us were in possession of black money, and in order to recover the ill-gotten wealth, made 500- and 1,000-rupee notes — 86 per cent of the currency in circulation — overnight illegal. More than a month on, what has been the outcome? Almost all the 500- and 1,000-rupee notes in circulation are now back in the banks — in other words, not many beat their chests watching their bundles of cash turn into mere paper. If anything, black money has now turned pink and become far easier to hoard. Pink is the new black.

And so, the rich continue to remain rich, getting the freshly-minted 2,000-rupee notes home-delivered, whereas the poor continue to remain poor, enduring some more of what they are used to: suffering. I don’t know how the poor feel when they stand in the queue for hours to get just one pink note, and the next day read about thousands of such notes being recovered from the house of an unlucky businessman or contractor.

What makes me write about demonetisation is a picture I saw the other day of an elderly man — a poor but self-respecting villager in Gurgaon — who was in tears because he had missed his spot in the queue outside a bank. Weren’t the rich supposed to cry this time? That the poor have been subjected to unspeakable hardship is driven home to me every evening when I edit copies sent by correspondents from various cities.

The sports goods industry in Meerut has nearly shut down and so has the ceramic industry in Gujarat. About 20,000 workers in Surat’s diamond units have lost their jobs, and so have six lakh bidi-binders in Murshidabad and Malda. The list of victims is very long — and that includes not just the poor, but also the middle-class, whose primary occupation these days is to stand in queues. Not to mention the farmers, who have been hit the hardest.

No one knows for sure when the entire 86 per cent of the currency voided would be replaced, though credible calculations suggest seven months. By then, India would have learned to live without cash and reverted to the ancient barter system — well, it is already happening in villages, Google up — and become a cashless society, just as the Government wants it to be.

End of the day, a few crooks would be penalised: one who had Rs. 500 crore would be left with Rs. 200 crore, one who had Rs. 50 crore would be left with Rs. 25 crore, and so forth. But who is going to compensate for the months of unemployment and hardship that three quarters of the population would have endured by then?

And, why was the entire nation bombed when there should have been a surgical strike against the corrupt? Well, that’s as good as asking America: Where was the WMD in Iraq?

One thing: rich nations, while they don’t care for poor nations, usually care for their poor, but poor nations don’t care for their poor — it is the rich who always rule.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 11:12:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/Why-did-you-use-cannon-to-kill-a-fly/article16858380.ece

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