Interview: Demonetisation move declares all Indians as possible crooks, unless they can establish otherwise, says Amartya Sen

On the government’s demonetisation move, Prof Amartya Sen, in an email interview to The Indian Express says: “Only an authoritarian government can calmly cause such misery to the people."

Written by Seema Chishti | New Delhi | Updated: November 26, 2016 7:16 am
Amartya sen, Demonetisation,Amartya sen demonetisation, Amartya sen on demonetisation, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, indian government, demonetisation move, demonetisation poors, demonetisation banks, currency demonetisation, india news, indian express news Reacting to the government’s claim that pain would result in eventual gain, Prof Sen made it clear that it was wrong to think that all things that are painful, are good. (File photo)

Bharat Ratna and Nobel laureate, Professor Amartya Sen, who is currently Thomas W Lamont University Professor and Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University spoke to The Indian Express on demonetisation and said, that both, the idea and the way it was implemented, was akin to a “despotic action” and betrayed the “authoritarian nature of the government”.

He said: “Telling the public suddenly that the promissory notes you have, do not promise anything with certainty, is a more complex manifestation of authoritarianism, allegedly justified — or so the government claims — because some of these notes, held by some crooked people, involve black money. At one stroke the move declares all Indians — indeed all holders of Indian currency — as possibly crooks, unless they can establish they are not.”

Speaking about the difficulties faced by the common Indian in getting their own, white money out of banks, he said: “Only an authoritarian government can calmly cause such misery to the people — with millions of innocent people being deprived of their money and being subjected to suffering, inconvenience and indignity in trying to get their own money back.”

Asked if the move could cause any good as the Prime Minister claims, Sen said; “It is hard to see how. This will be as much of a failure as the government’s earlier promise of bringing black money stacked away abroad back to India (and giving all Indians a sudden gift — what an empty promise!). The people who are best equipped to avoid the intended trap of demonetisation are precisely the ones who are seasoned dealers in black money — not the common people and small traders who are undergoing one more misery in addition to all the deprivations and indignities from which they suffer.”

Reacting to the government’s claim that pain would result in eventual gain, Prof Sen made it clear that it was wrong to think that all things that are painful, are good. “Good policies sometimes cause pain, but whatever causes pain – no matter how intense – is not necessarily good policy.”