Monday, November 14, 2016

Baba Ramdev and demonetisation of high value currency notes

On June 6, 2011, I wrote an article for this blog on Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev after I read the news of his eviction by the government from Delhi’s Ramlila Grounds. He, along with his followers, was protesting against black money then.

Now again he caught my attention when he told a news agency, “During war, our soldiers fight sans eating for 7-8 days; so can’t we do the same for our nation?”

In the report by the agency it is also brought out that in 2012 Ramdev asked the then Congress-led government to discontinue the Rs 500, Rs 1000 notes.

Now that his wish has been fulfilled by the Narendra Modi government he must be very happy. So, he is busy batting for the demonetisation announced by Modi, and therefore defending the move as vigorously as a ruling party politician, though he is not one.

It is not only long queues outside ATMs and banks, there were reported deaths and also injuries to people as well some people getting angered and breaking glass windows and other properties of banks too. These could have been avoided with a little more right information being given to people just after the announcement of banning the Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes, or at least when people rushed to the banks for exchanging notes or for depositing the notes in their accounts. It could have been by displaying the correct information at a few prominent spots in front of banks or distributing a few handbills containing the required information.

What happened was that most of the people who rushed to the banks and ATMs had only half-baked information or the wrong information that almost made them believe that all their hard-earned money is banned or otherwise lost because of the government action.

Here are a few incidents that I heard from various people and some tidbits that I read from newspapers:

In Delhi, a lot of people reportedly wasted their money by exchanging a Rs 500 note just for a short distance auto-rickshaw ride worth Rs 30, giving away the note just for buying a soap cake, or such small items.

Some devout and god-fearing persons found the donation boxes before temples as the repository of banned banknotes as they believed that donating the notes to the God will at least get them salvation – or they wanted to cheat the god too? A newspaper carried the photo of some pundits of a temple in Noida, UP, sitting with a huge pile of cash in order to count and stack them.

Another report in the newspapers said that some enterprising traders opened separate counters in their shops to exchange the notes at discounts ranging from 40 to 50 percent.

Those who had a little more to exchange scrambled to jewellery shops to buy gold. The gold traders too made hay as they raised the price of gold from Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000 per 10 grams against the prevailing rate just around Rs 31,000. The jewelers sold out their stocks within no time and downed their shutters.

Some of the super intelligent and over smart persons searched for beggars in Delhi’s streets and told them to exchange their small change for the bigger denomination notes.

I personally heard a few people in my neighbourhood cursing the banks, the government and whoever they thought were responsible for the imagined loss of their hard earned money.

All these people seriously believed that they were carrying not banknotes of any value but just pieces of paper. Apart from whatever half-baked information they had, the shop keepers and whoever they talked to, just told them that the notes are banned and they are worth nothing.

The above anecdotes simply tell you that all the chaos, the serpentine queues, etc. were just because of misinformation.

Here are a few more things reported by the newspapers.

A 55-year-old woman named Vinoda who had recently sold 12 acres of land for Rs 54 lakh committed suicide in Mahabubabad district in Telangana on Thursday. Her family had spent Rs 4 lakh and had Rs 50 lakh left in cash. After hearing about the demonetisation she believed that notes were worthless and lost everything.

A nursing home in Govandi allegedly refused to treat a baby as a carpenter Jagadish Sharma, father of the newborn, could not pay Rs 6,000 in notes of Rs 100, though he requested to give him time to exchange the notes. The baby and mother were taken to another hospital where the infant’s condition worsened and he died before getting treatment.

There are several other similar cases reported from all over India.

I started with a reference to Baba Ramdev. Though I am not a follower of the Yoga Guru, I follow all the news about him and now I take special interest in reading news about his Patanjali Ayurved that has given a run for their money to multinational companies and top brands in personal care products and daily use items.

Along with the large number of his followers the Baba can help to educate the people at such critical times as I quoted above. What is needed is just passing on the right information at the right time. Alternatively, with the clout he has with some of the national leaders, he can persuade them to take care of such aspects.

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