We have been good this year. We have been trusting, we grappled with demonetisation and are patiently standing in queues since November 10 to deposit and withdraw money. Though doubts have been raised about the fruitfulness of the ban on Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, most of us have nothing but conviction and faith in our leader, Narendra Modi. Yes we have been a patient lot, a good lot, a persevering lot. So, we reckon that no matter what we did before November 8, these past 50-odd days should give us a lot of brownie points for us in your books.
Surely, you are nodding in agreement when you read this. One bearded man served us “kadak chai” and we now hope another bearded man will leave us many gifts at our homes this weekend. Here’s a handy list of presents that Indians need this Christmas:
1. Powerful binoculars: We could do with a pair of binoculars to spot Urjit Patel, the governor of the Reserve Bank of India. He went missing for close to three weeks after the biggest monetary experiment conducted in India on November 8, making a brief appearance on November 27, and has not been seen too often since. If we do manage to find him, we would like him to explain to us what exactly were the “detailed deliberations” taken before the demonetisation decision. We understand the governor is not as talkative as his predecessor but then a lack of communication from the institution behind the printing of our currency notes, especially at a time when they are in short supply, does not help matters.
2. More Rs 10 coins: Since the RBI cannot make up its mind about its decisions, it needs help. For instance, a day after it imposed restrictions on depositing more than Rs 5,000 in banks on December 19, it withdrew the decision. Maybe, flipping a coin would help the central bank take a call and stick to its decisions for at least a week. A Rs 10 coin is sturdy and easy to toss.
3. A reverse sensor: The RBI and Ministry of Finance could do with a reverse sensor so that they do not keep driving into tricky corners. In the month and a half since demonetisation was announced, the RBI-Ministry of Finance combine has issued 60 notifications as it struggles to get out of one tight spot after another. A reverse sensor would help those at the wheel navigate or park the vehicle properly.
4. A treasure map: The Income Tax department faces the unenviable task of hunting down those who have stashes of black money. A treasure map would help them locate these shady deposits among the many lakhs of crores of old notes that have come back into the banking system. After all, the IT department will be preoccupied with preparing and sending notices and demand letters to these evil people. Surely, you can nudge them along their way with a map marking out all the areas of hidden gold – sorry, currency.
5. Flip-flops: Demonetisation was announced as a bold and strong move against black money, counterfeit currency, and terror financing. Since then, its aim has changed constantly. This IndiaSpend article tells us that between November 8 and November 27, the narrative about the demonetisation exercise swung from black money elimination to a cashless economy, as evident in the Prime Minister’s speeches. As flip-flops seem to be the flavour of the season, why don’t you give the government a good good pair of flip-flops so that they can park themselves at a beach during the Christmas break, while the rest of India struggles to withdraw money from banks?
6. An additional printing press: The 50 days of patience that Prime Minister Modi demanded of us to cope with the hardships of demonetisation ends on December 30. By all indications, it is highly unlikely that the acute shortage of new currency notes will get resolved by then. Currently, there are four printing presses across India working towards easing this shortage of notes. Perhaps an additional one can help us access our money sooner.
7. Balm: A big dose of balm to soothe the aches and pains of everyone standing for hours outside banks and ATMs to get their money is a must. We’ve been told everyone is used to queues in India. That might be so, but there is a difference in doing something out of choice and doing it out of compulsion. To wait inordinately to access one’s own money is injury enough and we have been doing it for weeks at a stretch.
8. A big goodie bag: Everyone is waiting for a Budget that brings relief to the taxpayers to compensate for the pains of demonetisation. Media reports are already full of hope for income tax breaks and sops in Budget 2017-’18, due in less than two months from now. Let’s hope Finance Minister Arun Jaitley lives up to these expectations and delivers a bold and visionary budget.
So, Santa, we really hope you will be kind and generous this Christmas. We’ll look eagerly to our chimneys over the weekend.
Anupam Gupta is a chartered accountant and has worked in equity research since 1999, first as an analyst and now as a consultant. His Twitter handle is @b50.