Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave the people of India less than four hours – that too at the end of the day – to prepare for something they were least expecting. At the stroke of midnight yesterday he turned all Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes into scraps of paper.
Why this rush, one is tempted to ask. After all, India is not the first country in the world to ban currency notes. Even its neighbor Pakistan is doing this, but in a much measured manner. As a result, the chaos that has erupted in India following Modi’s sudden announcement is nowhere to be found in Pakistan.
In June this year, the central bank of Pakistan announced that all the old-designed notes in circulation would cease to remain legal from December 1, 2016. The people were given six months to exchange their old currency notes. The reasons given for the issue of new bank notes was that Pakistan would ensure their “security, durability and aesthetic design.”
Earlier, the State Bank of Pakistan had demonetized Rs 5 notes and the old designed Rs 500 notes. Now all the remaining old-designed notes of Rs10, 50, 100 and 1,000 will be withdrawn as well. However, the last day to exchange all old banknotes would be December 31, 2021, the SBP said.
Then why was Prime Minister Modi in such hurry to scrap all Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes here within 24 hours of his announcement? Some BJP-leaning experts have tried to explain that the government did not want to give time for uncounted money to be converted into white money.
Such an argument falls flat even against simple logic. Those who have unaccounted money could have really done nothing had the government given even a month’s notice. They couldn’t have given it to others because no one would take the trouble of accepting banned notes. They could not have sent it abroad because no hawala operator would be able to convert a scrapped currency into dollars.
The daily wage earners, pensioners, patients and almost the entire middle class in India have no money at home to buy next day’s food or medicine. From Wednesday morning they have been asking only one question: WHY THIS RUSH?