Chandigarh, November 9: Swachh Bharat campaign launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi ended in photo ops without much follow up. Now he has implemented his another promise to cleanse the money market of dirty money, but not without disrupting the life of a common man and woman while giving a shock even to his own Bhakts, especially from the middle and lower middle classes. The common man undertaking repair of the house does know how to make payment to the labourers. The house wife who had saved money from kitty parties is in a shock, not knowing what to do. The demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes within four hours of the announcement has disrupted not only the market but also the normal life. Markets remained deserted. Pockets were suddenly empty.
Modi had promised to bring black money stashed by Indians abroad in which he miserably failed. This money was to go into the account of the common man at the rate of Rs 15 lakh each. Nothing of that sort happened. Now he has struck at the black money in the domestic market. One does not know what would be the end result in the long run but it has turned everything upside down immediately.
Here is just one example about the operation of black money market quoted by now Congress leader Manpreet Singh Badal when he was the finance minister in the Akali Dal-BJP government headed by his uncle Parkash Singh Badal. He gave the example of McDonald’s in Ludhiana. This one eatery was paying the highest tax in the rich industrial city in Ludhiana, more than all eating joints put together. This multinational is a fast food joint. This is what is black money market. Virtually the entire retail operations run by the small trader are part of the black money. No bania shop gives receipt on the goods sold and nobody asks for the same. The reason is simple. These shops cater to the everyday needs of the common people, literally. The daily wager makes small purchases every day that can’t be accounted for. Modi understands this market between than anybody as he himself happens to be a Chaiwala.
The basic issue is that of attacking the system itself that generates black money. The small trader selling his goods or a roadside chaiwala is not the source of black money. He would face harassment under Swachh Bharat II campaign. The people who generate black money are different.
Modi talked of checking smuggling and financing of terrorist operations through demonetisation. It is Punjab that should be the test case. Ever since the problem of drugs was raked up by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi in Punjab in 2012 by misquoting a report while saying that 70 per cent of the youth in the state were addicts, the Badal government had been blaming smuggling from across the border for the scourge. It is a fact that Punjab is on the transit route of smuggling of heroin from Afghanistan via Pakistan to other countries. It is a chain. Some part of it is also consumed in this state.
Going by Modi’s statement, the smuggling would be checked and this would mean shortage of drugs in the market. The situation would start getting reflected within days going by the earlier experience when bhukki (poppy husk) was in short supply and people came on the roads demanding their daily dose. It may be mentioned that every party and candidates of the main political parties routinely distribute bhukki among the voters in the countryside.
Punjab is a test case not only for Modi but also the Badal government. In case the supply gets affected, that would prove them right.
Punjab has been the fertile ground for militancy and the intelligence bureau leaked its communication to the state intelligence about Pakistan based Sikh terrorists exploiting the situation in this border state again.
The fall in real estate prices would definitely be a welcome step. This can also badly impact the construction industry with consequent chain reaction. But then the experts in the government know it better.
One should wait for the results at least in Punjab.