No, the PM’s survey on demonetisation cannot cover up ground realities

Sadly, the poorest, who because of their dependance on the cash economy have been hit the worst, are not accounted for in this survey.

Written by Kanishka Singh | New Delhi | Published:November 24, 2016 2:13 pm
PM Modi in Lok Sabha, Wednesday. (PTI Photo) PM Modi in Lok Sabha, Wednesday. (PTI Photo)

Millions of Indians are still struggling with the post-demonetisation cash crunch. However, a survey through the Narendra Modi app seems to show that there are hardly any people in the country who oppose the demonetisation move. While it would take us just a few minutes in any bank queue to figure out if there is any discontent over the move, it might be good for the government and the BJP not be naive enough to believe the survey as a reflection of the actual situation on ground.

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The PM announced that the survey was conducted on his official Narendra Modi app and registered a participation of over five lakh users within 24 hours. Interestingly, there are two Narendra Modi apps the PM endorses on all smartphone app stores. One is developed and run by the Government of India and the other by the BJP. Notably, the survey was carried out through the BJP-run app.

Only 17 per cent of the Indian population has access to smartphones and a very small portion of that, again 17 per cent, uses this app. Also, it is highly likely most people who already have the app are supporters of the Prime Minister and the BJP. So the results, which showed that 93 per cent of the participants supported the move, should not come as a surprise.

But not everyone is taking the results at face value. Some key questions that lead to desired answers have been highlighted on social media, along with how the survey made it difficult for the participants to disagree with it.

Also, given the state of smartphone and mobile internet penetration in India, it has clearly not accounted for the rural population. Clearly, at the very outset, an app-based survey targets a micro segment of the population which was not representative of the population.

However, as expected, the results are being used to validate the demonetisation move. The arguments given by the government suggest that public support to demonetisation is reflective of their spirit of patriotism. Anyone who disagrees with demonetisation is being branded as anti-government or pro-black money.

Sadly, the poorest, who because of their dependance on the cash economy have been hit the worst, are not accounted for in this survey. Millions of farmers have been hit badly when they were getting ready to sow the rabi crop. The limit for withdrawal for farmers has been increased and even the usage of old notes allowed, but with the banks short of currency, this doesn’t seem to be helping much. The other section that seems to be affected are families which had scheduled weddings at this time of the year. Banks have been refusing them cash, which are still essential for such functions, either due to lack of RBI’s operational guidelines or shortage of cash.

Even if the common, app-using, Indian is happy, the government should not overlook, or turn a blind eye to, the impact this suction of cash will have on the overall economy over the next few months. Tighter planning and execution of plans is what the PM should eye for now, given that two weeks have passed since his big announcement. Self-toasting polls might just not get the currency it needs.