Opinion

Anti-Cash Day, Anti-Idle Savings Day, Anti-Anti-Modi Day: What should November 8 be called?

The government’s many goal-post shifts for demonetisation provide a wealth of suggestions for what to name the day.

Last month, a number of Opposition leaders decided they would mark November 8 as a black day to protest the government’s decision one year ago to demonetise 86% of India’s currency. The decision resulted in tremendous distress for many Indians and an economic slowdown. A few days later, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party would be celebrating the anniversary of the note ban as Anti-Black Money Day, and criticised the Opposition for not supporting the move.

That the same day will have two different names is somehow appropriate for the one-year anniversary of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s big-bang move, which impacted nearly every Indian and appeared to help his party win the Uttar Pradesh elections a few months later. The decision also led to the deaths of many people and caused economic distress from which the country is yet to recover, with little in the way of actual gains.

To avoid admitting that, the government quickly moved on from the initial objectives that Modi laid out in his speech on November 8, suggesting many other reasons why demonetisation was carried out. So, here is a list of things November 8 could be celebrated as:

  • Anti-‘Grip of Corruption’ Day: Modi’s very first announcement on November 8 said that the objective of the move was to “break the grip of corruption and black money”, while also fighting against fake currency. Data from the Reserve Bank of India, however, suggested that all of the demonetised currency was returned to banks, contrary to government expectations, suggesting that the corrupt probably did not keep their black money in cash.
  • Anti-Cash Day: What do you do when you realise that illicit money was probably not being kept as cash? Insist that cash itself was the problem anyway. As IndiaSpend noted, even though Modi did not mention it while announcing the decision on November 8, by the end of November he was using the term “cashless” three times as much as “black money” and was no longer talking about fake currency.
  • Anti-Idle Savings Day: Out of the blue, the Finance Ministry announced another aim that seemed to have nothing to do with corruption, and instead was a way of forcing people to put their money where the government wanted it. This may have been accurate, and indeed the recent Bank Recapitalisation Bonds have been enabled by excess deposits in the system. But it certainly was not mentioned as one of the objectives of the decision. Moreover, it’s unclear why should the government decide how people save their money.

  • Anti-Anti-Black Money Holders Day: Soon after demonetisation, the government described black money as a “crime against humanity”. But, even as the BJP’s digital army was out in force labeling anyone who criticised the move as corrupt, the government put in place not one but two amnesty schemes allowing those black money holders to come clean and return to the banking system.
  • Anti-Terrorism, Drug Smuggling, Human Trafficking, Stone-Pelting Day: Modi claimed in a speech in December 2016 that demonetisation had “destroyed” the terrorism, drug mafia, human traffickers and fake note smugglers. Arun Jaitley even claimed that demonetisation would stop stone pelting in Kashmir, pedding the conspiracy theory that protesters are paid for their actions. The government has not offered any evidence to suggest these activities have been destroyed, and indeed, stone-pelting and militant attacks have continued.
  • Anti-Small Tax Base Day: Arun Jaitley offered another objective of demonetisation while speaking to a parliamentary panel in January. He said that the verification of deposits and so on was likely to “deepen and widen the tax base”, yet another claim that is still to be borne out and one that went unmentioned on November 8.
  • Anti-High Real-Estate Prices Day: Here is Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian adding his two bits to what seems like a free-for-all to add to the many objectives of demonetisation. “Real estate you do see a blip in prices, sales and launches and of course some of it may be adverse to the economy but in the long run, some of that could be good because aim of the demonetisation is to bring down real estate prices,” he wrote in the Economic Survey.
  • Anti-Informal Economy Day: This is a country cousin of the admission that demonetisation was meant to force people into saving the way the government prefers them to. In a speech in February 2017, Jaitley said, “there is greater integration of informal economy taking place with formal economy that leads to larger and cleaner GDP, that was our objective behind the decision on demonetisation.” As many have pointed out, an informal economy is not the same as a corrupt one.
  • Anti-Bad-Cash-to-GDP Ratio day: Most recently, the government insisted demonetisation helped achieve a better cash-to-GDP ratio, from 12% to 9%. This, it claimed was proof of a cleaner economy. What was not mentioned in the same breath, however, is that the ratio actually spiked in the first few years of Modi’s tenure, and that the fresh figures may yet change as more currency re-enters the system.
  • Anti-Anti-Modi Day: Modi said, soon after his move, that the forces he is taking on “may not let me live” and yet he called on the people to bear with the pain caused by demonetisation for another 50 days, after which he would be prepared for any punishment the country gives him. It has since been more than 350 days since that speech.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.