On Tuesday night, while the world was fixated on the US presidential elections, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi dropped a bombshell at home. In a surprise address to the nation, Modi announced that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes would cease to be legal tender in India from midnight.
In the televised address, delivered in Hindi and English, Modi explained that “there is a need for a decisive war against the menace of corruption, black money and terrorism – festering wounds which make the country and society hollow from within”.
Newspapers on Wednesday front-paged the demonetisation story, calling it a “bold” or “stunning” step. A common analogy used in many copies was “surgical strikes”, the phrase employed by the government to describe the attacks on militant camps along the Line of Control on September 28.
“The move is being labelled a ‘surgical strike’ against terrorists who have been flooding the country with fake notes,” said The Telegraph.
Since the demonetisation came with several restrictions – for instance, ATMs will not work everywhere on November 9 and in many places on November 10 – newspapers provided readers handy tips on how to convert Rs 500 and 1,000 notes.
This is not the first time that the government has demonetised currency notes.
In January 1946, the Indian government had demonetised Rs 1,000 and 10,000 banknotes. And in January 1978, Rs 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000 notes were withdrawn in a bid to counter black money in the economy.
The move is aimed to hit money hoarders hard, but may inadvertently affect the groups who are not part of the cashless economy. The government normally resorts to withdrawing high-denomination notes as a radical measure in a bid to counter forgery.