Demonetisation: In long queues of banks, ATMs, India confronted with the ghost of achhe din
New Delhi, Nov 6: There is something about waiting, it never ends.
For India, "achhe din (good day)" is like "Godot" from Samuel Beckett's classic, Waiting for Godot, who never appears in the play although the entire narrative gyrates around 'the character'.
Back in 2014, Narendra Modi promised India achhe din and voters in the hope of changing their lives embedded in poverty, deprivation and large-scale corruption anointed the then Gujarat Chief Minister with the crown of country's Prime Minister with a huge mandate.
More than three years of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) regime at the Centre, achhe din seems to have left the corridors of power quietly. The PM himself has stopped talking about it too.
What the nation is confronted with now is a twisted version of achhe din, where prices of daily essential items, including vegetables and fuels, are at its highest in recent times, jobs are scarce in the market, creation of deep-divide between the Hindus and Muslims, rise in terrorist attacks in Kashmir and attack on freedom of speech, to name a few issues the saffron government needs to address immediately.
The realisation that things are never going to change for the better dawned on India when Modi almost a year ago on November 8 decided to announce "demonetisation", a word hardly heard by those born after 1980.
The last demonetisation of high-value currency notes took place in 1978.
The move to "ban" Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 to fight against black money, corruption and terror funding by the Modi government came "like a thunderbolt out of a clear sky" to 1.3 billion Indians.
The countrymen wondered how could their hard-earned cash in the form of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes suddenly turned into "black money". But Modi convinced all, mostly the gullible ones, with his fierce speech that it was a pro-poor and anti-rich step by his government.
When the BJP won the Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand with a thumping majority and formed the government in Manipur (for the first time) and Goa (once again) earlier this year as a part of five states Assembly elections, the credit for the victory went to Modi and his high-profile measure--demonetisation.
The critics of demonetisation were silenced by Modi's electoral victory, making note ban a "successful" mission of the BJP government.
Those who support the saffron regime patted the BJP government's back. They hailed Modi, the risk taker, who did not fear about criticism from the Opposition and a section of economists and went ahead to turn the country swachh (clean) from black money and corruption.
What actually happened immediately after the announcement of demonetisation is a story we all know well, but conveniently try to erase our bad memories as they are too painful to remember.
Demonetisation created massive panic among the masses. First, due to note ban, cash went missing as the government removed 86 percent of currency from the economy and second, the massive rush to exchange and deposit old notes and get access to valid cash from banks and ATMs.
The chaotic scenario was well reflected in front of thousands of banks and ATMs across the country as people in hordes stood in serpentine queues to get their hands on white money and get rid of black money.
Thousands of men and women (sometimes children too) waited for hours at end in front of banks and ATMs in the hope that money would pour from the sky and allow them to get soaked to the bone out in the 'cash rain'.
Sadly, neither it rained, nor it drizzled. Rather the 'money' drought continued for months. The smart ones, with handsome bank balance, went for digital transaction; the poor became poorer as they started losing their jobs quickly.
From daily wagers, farmers to small traders, the Modi government's new economic model hit the poor the hardest. The biggest tragedy of note ban is that it killed at least 150 people. Most died while waiting in queues in front of banks and ATMs.
Others who survived the onslaught of demonetisation are still waiting for achhe din.