Nov 8, 2016, will either go down in the history of India as a red-letter day or black Tuesday. The great Indian dream is that the scourge of black money that has eaten into the vitals of the Indian economy will be wiped out by the historic announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes would cease to be legal tenders from the stroke of midnight that day. Following the financial mayhem on the streets in the days that followed, which still continues, Modi fell back on his oft-tried, sometimes successful, approach of touching the emotional chords of the people, seeking just 50 days to wipe out their sweat and tears of misery. Bravo, people roared from the queues in front of banks on television channels, even as the likes of Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal quickly grabbed television space with their antics of joining the people waiting on the streets. Closer home, Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao chose to put facts and figures on the table quietly to drive home the point that the picture painted by the Prime Minister was not so rosy after all. Blessed with a healthy financial beginning, the new-born State, after the initial tentative steps, began making rapid strides on all fronts, so much so that it began winning accolades from national and international quarters in just two-and-a-half years. Its dreams of a vibrant industry and a prosperous farming community have been virtually halted by the demonetisation decision. The rural economy, largely cash-driven, is in utter chaos with farmers sitting on tonnes of freshly-harvested produce in the absence of liquid cash. The real estate sector, which had just begun to show signs of an encouraging recovery from slump post the initiatives taken by the State government, is cracking up. The retail sector, including small shops, is already in the red what with the purchasing power of people severely crippled by the move. The man on the street is spending more time queuing up before banks than engaging himself in more productive activities.
The State coffers are also on the brink of going empty with revenue generating departments like Stamps and Registrations and Excise, which are the backbone of its economy, reporting alarmingly low deposits. Given this background, it is understandable that the Chief Minister is seriously considering measures to tighten the belt, including a cut in salaries of law-makers and employees and going slow on developmental and welfare programmes. It is a twist of irony that a State, which was expected to emerge as a front-runner in all fields should find itself in such a corner, all because of what may be a well-intentioned but ill-planned move by the Centre. As one wag put it, it seems to be more like carpet-bombing of the poor than a strategic strike on the rich basking in ill-gotten wealth. ‘Schadenfreude,’ Mr Modi, enjoy the discomfiture you have caused to the people of India.