Change is the law of life. Modernity is about breaking stereotypes that govern individual and institutional habits. In today’s world, technology has come to be the main driving force of change. From the steam engine to the electric bulb and internet, technology has defined the evolution of the human mind and civilisation. Should India not keep pace with this momentum?
The demonetisation of high-value currency notes announced on November 8 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has several dimensions. Cutting off money channels to terrorists and extremist elements, weeding out counterfeit currency and driving out black money are the visible, short-term objectives. But the long-term consequences and gains include ushering in a behavioural change at all levels of society. It is a part of the grand “cultural revolution” that the PM is working on. The entrenched old order needs to make way for a new normal. This cultural revolution, impinging on all walks of public and private life amounts to shaking up the system. It ranges from attending office on time, keeping working and living environments clean, accountability, transparency, technology adoption, innovation, etc.
Instead of quibbling over the ratio of our currency to GDP vis-à-vis other economies, the moot question is how and by when can a common Indian make technology an effective tool. Logic suggests it should be as quick as it can be, given the humongous advantages. Why should one carry currency at all? A least cash society needs to be our goal. The major latent benefit highlighted by the recent demonetisation is it has driven home the point that all Indians should be prepared for a least cash ecosystem. This entails a major attitudinal change and a behavioural modification.
Let us examine demonetisation in the overall context of our institutional culture that has evolved since Independence. There may not be too many dissenting voices if I say that the prime contours of the existing decadent culture are corruption, opportunism, nepotism, greed, repression (remember Emergency?), exploitation of power, sycophancy and self-seeking behaviour. Non-Congress governments made sincere efforts to change this culture but the results fell short given their too brief interregnums. So, everyone knows which party is primarily responsible for this entrenched decadent culture.
Vested with an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha for the first time after 30 years, PM Modi has taken upon the responsibility to change this deeply entrenched system. This is an essential pre-requisite for the making of a developed India. What has PM Modi done and what will the consequences be?
One, he has given the clarion call for a “cultural revolution” against the old decadent culture, whose contours have been outlined above. Two, he set in motion a multi-pronged and comprehensive strategy to cleanse the system of all ills that have worked against the interests of the poor, the common man and the middle class, since the system nurtured by the Congress benefited only a few individuals and groups. Three, his efforts will result in a “new normal” in which the financial institutions and systems will serve the interests of the poor, the common man and the middle classes, who constitute the vast majority of the “honest” that our society is made of.
Four, the initiatives of the prime minister and the government, including the latest “remonetisation”, are aimed at a “behavioural change” that is necessary for building a new and resurgent India based on the cleanliness of thought and action. Five, the perception about India from that of being “corrupt” to “clean” will result in increased investments and enhanced economic and business activities benefiting millions of unemployed youth. Six, the new initiatives will herald a modern India on the lines of advanced countries, where financial payments and transactions will not require currency — technology will become a tool in the hands of common people. Seven, targeted behavioural modification will eventually result in the elimination of black money leading to increased revenues to Central and state governments that ultimately benefits the poor, common man and the middle classes. Finally, the new initiatives will soon transform India, erasing the legacy of the old decadent culture and Modi will emerge as the tallest leader of post-Independence India.
This prospect has obviously rattled some parties, families and individuals who stand to benefit from the status quo. This is the prime reason for their so-called aakrosh. But this anger has no justification as it does not echo with the people who have braved long queues since November 8 with patience and discipline despite the best efforts of some parties to provoke them into violence and unrest. People have raised their hands for a new Bharat. The judgement of the people is out. This, however, is not palatable to some. Their worry is how Modi finds such a resonance with the people. So, let us disrupt Parliament.
It is time that such parties stand by the change that people want and vent their aakrosh against status quo instead of seeking to block change with photo opportunities.