Almost as soon as Prime Minister Narendra Modi finished his television address on November 8, 2016, declaring that he had demonetised 86% of the country’s currency to obliterate the illegal economy, eliminate counterfeit currency and strike a deathblow to terrorism, it was clear that he had played a monumental joke on all Indians.
As Indians joined enormous queues for scarce cash across the country, apologists for the regime cheered each new reason shuffled out for the capricious decision: that it would increase digital payments, that it would reduce corruption, that prostitution had been curbed.
Days after Modi’s announcement, comedian Jose Covaco made a video explaining why some of this would actually work. The new pink-purple Rs 2,000 notes were fitted with nano GPS chips that would allow the authorities to detect stacks of illegal cash by satellite, he said.
With the reverberations of demonetisation evident even today as Indians struggle to rebuild lives shattered by business slump and lost jobs, it’s clear that we’re still laughing our way out of the chaos.