Time for a new social contract?

Aheli Moitra 


Unprecedented onslaught on the poor. Foolhardy and reckless economic experiment. Wrought havoc on lives and livelihoods. Reflects a mindset that has only contempt for the poor. A bungling of monumental proportions. Aggressively promoting inequality. A colossal failure. Reduced the rupee’s status to just another commodity. A scheme to enable “unscrupulous people” to turn their black money into white. All drama and no effect. Shifting goalposts. Preposterous.  Wholesale bungling. Blatantly irresponsible. Significant security hazard. Massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich. Operationally muddled. Blatantly undemocratic. Devoid of legislative support. Violation of fundamental rights. Foolish. Criminal move. Cruel joke. Economic/Monetary illiteracy. Irresponsible. Completely mindless measure.


The latest issue of Frontline magazine (December 10-23, 2016, Vol. 32, No. 25) has dedicated more than 100 pages to a gargantuan exercise in journalism that goes through the impact of demonetisation on urban and rural India. The first paragraph of this editorial highlights words from some of the conclusion drawn by Frontline on what demonetisation of 86% of people’s cash has meant for the Indian citizen. The publication stated that the leaders who were at the forefront of its implementation—Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Urjit Patel—are the ‘blundering troika’ behind the policy that has caused huge devastation to a majority of the Indian economy, the unorganised sector.


On November 14, an activist from the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative filed an RTI application with the Department of Economic Affairs of the Government of India “seeking copies of the Cabinet Note that was approved by the Union Cabinet regarding the decision to demonetise currency notes of Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 500 denomination.” Additionally, he asked whether “the government had sought people’s views on the issue of demonetisation prior to making the decision.”


No response has come to date.


The activist filed another RTI application with the RBI to seek information on the Board meeting minutes and recommendations it made prior to approving the decision for large scale demonetisation. The RBI rejected access to the information sought.


So, while the government has amassed the small income that most workers of the Indian Union make through cash and made the banking sector its stooge in rationing what belongs to the people—amounting to mass burglary under the shadow of majoritarian rule—it has refused to keep its end of the promise made to the people in a democracy of transparency and accountability.


Meanwhile, during recent election campaigns, leaders of the ruling party have claimed through unknown forms of research that “terror funding, human and drug trafficking” have been “destroyed.”


As we approach the December 30 deadline for the unfair and forcible exchange of currency, it is important for people to wake up from the stupor and oppression the ruling government has piled on us by using a democratic machinery to its political advantage. As the latest issue of Frontline has competitively argued, the move has contributed to breaking down of the social contract between the State and its citizens.


If people take this opportunity to examine how the system has allowed for this, can we then begin to think of a new social contract?



Comments can be sent to moitramail@yahoo.com


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