modiI landed Cochin International Airport yesterday morning at 4.30AM after nearly three months in North America.

It was a Hartal day in Kerala. (Hartal is a national festival of the state of Kerala. I have already got greeting messages in WhatsApp: “Wish you a happy and prosperous hartal.” It’s a political gala day celebrated many times a year in Kerala and few parts of West Bengal.)

The beauty of this carnival is you don’t need any no solid reason to celebrate. It depends upon whims and fancies of political leaders. It’s similar to industrial action. Everything standstill. No taxi cabs or transportation vehicles will be plying. No shops will be opened. The Hartal was against the centre government policy of demonetization by cancelling the 500 and 1000 rupees notes.

All I had was few Rs 1000 notes that I kept with me when we left 3 months ago. After collecting baggage, I went to a bank counter in the airport to exchange the note. The bank representative said that he cannot exchange old currency notes. The last day was over.

I said: “Okay. Can you officially tell me that it is not possible to exchange the old notes? I just wanted to record it.”

“No sir, I will give you a single note of Rs 2000/-, in my personal risk as I know you need the money for taxi fare”

“You don’t have to take any personal risk for me….” I said. But he smiled and gave it to me. Luckily I have got a taxi. (Generally taxi drivers would stop their services previous night itself. Though, in principle, taxis can ply up to 6AM on Hartal day, rarely drivers take a risk. They can get beating on the way back).

Later, after reaching Ernakulum city, I went to 3 ATMs. All three ATMs were not working. There was a security guard in front of a bank near one ATM.

He said: “Sir, you know, left trade unions are very strong here. It works as a mafia. Individuals are helpless. They are being told to create as much hurdles so that the public will turn against the Centre government.”

“Why?”

“You know, in Kerala, as a general rule, we must hate Modi, otherwise the political parties and media won’t be happy.”

FYI: The only cottage industry that flourished in Kerala is politics. (Incidentally, do you know that there are no thieves among Mallus inside Kerala? You might wonder why. Simple reason – if you are a thief, little bit of physical labour is involved. You can earn money without any physical efforts by being a politician in Kerala. So why should you be a thief? However, when our Mallus cross the state- boarder, that’s a different story. Something prevents them to work inside the state – it’s a disease called ‘geographical syndrome’). All existing parties in Kerala (except obviously for BJP) traditionally hate Modi.

We talk big about economy. But looking at the ground reality in the so-called highly literate state, I feel sad about the progress in our country.

Gresham’s law, an economic principle, states: “When a government overvalues one type of money and undervalues another, the undervalued money will leave the country or disappear from circulation into hoards, while the overvalued money will flood into circulation.”

So, our Prime Minister’s move was in the right direction, accordance to the basic economic law. He has done his best within the severe limitations. We have to appreciate that.

Yes, I have also faced lot of problems. I didn’t have any currency in my hand. No provisions left at home. The petty shops that would open (keeping the shutter half-close, ready to drop when the protesters come) during hartal, won’t accept my credit cards. I really needed cash. I never borrow money from others.

So I went to eight ATMs in the morning. I couldn’t get any currency. I have forgotten to unplug the batteries of my car and bike while I left for USA. Hence I couldn’t use my vehicle too. I had to walk nearly 3 kilometres around in the hot climate. (Till yesterday I was freezing).

I was severely jet-lagged. I was sleepy and very tired. But I told myself – considering what my ancestors, who fought for India’s Independence, and those soldiers in Indian boundaries faced, my problems are trivial. It’s for my country, right? If I am not ready to do anything, if I am not sacrificing bit of my comforts for the sake of my country, who else will do that?

My wife called and said: “We have few lower denomination currency notes in kids’ piggy-bank box, so come back” My kids used to keep whatever they get from my father. It came in handy now.

Later, at 10 o’clock I went to bank. Bank was open and I couldn’t find any customers there. We had around 20K as cash in old 1000 notes. The bank clerk said: “You can put that amount into your savings bank account Sir. In fact you can put up to 250,000 worth old currency notes. But you cannot convert all immediately. We can give you Rs 24,000/-”

“Oh, I don’t need that much for survival. Just Rs 5000 okay with me…” I said. Then I asked the cash counter clerk. “So, how was your experience with Demonetization drive?”

“It was really problematic for few days, Uday sir. There was long queue. I saw even my best friends were standing in long queue. Even aged people stood for nearly 5 hrs.”

She continued: “There was a very old woman who has also spent 4 hours in the queue just to exchange 1000. Did she is having black money? No. Lot of genuine people had suffered a lot. However, later it turned out to be political issue. Lot of people stood in the queue were Benamis and labourers from other states. As you know, lot of Bangladeshi illegal immigrants who pose as Bengalis, are here in Kerala. They came to bank to exchange old currencies. They get Rs200 per head for standing in the queue to convert. The media will come in the morning take few shots and go. After sometime the queue will disappear.”

I also heard a sad story of a family who kept nearly 3 lakhs as cash for their daughter’s marriage in December.

However, I have not seen any queues in those banks yesterday. But in the afternoon, I saw news channels displaying long queues in the front of banks.

I called an ex-colleague who is a journalist. I asked him – there were lot of real problems in tackling this situation. But why would media created a panic situation – hype of insecurity and fear- among the public? Instead, you should have guided the public.

He said: “Boss, you know, the public don’t pay us. Advertisers do. We have to please our advertisers, not the public. Many politicians have partnership in many businesses. So, we have to show sufferings of peoples- long queue, no ATM, etc., instead of supporting such good moves.”

He is a genuine man. Most of the media persons are either pseudo intellectuals, or brain-washed by invaders’ version of Indian history or are leftists. They want to tarnish India whenever possible. So, even the international media is given to believe that if they broadcast, telecast or publish hate-India stories they would get more viewers or advertisements.

“And this is one of the best opportunities to beat Narendra Modi,” he said.

As a journalist, I have been covering finance and economy. Sources told me that, world’s largest Sovereign Wealth Funds and foreign pension funds line up to invest post demonetisation in India. So, on economic front, Modi has not made any mistake here.

Another journalist friend, who is anti-Modi, pro-left talked to me yesterday. He said the demonetisationwas a total failure and Modi was playing dirty political game for his party.

I told him: “Few years ago, you only told me that the BJP is predominantly a Baniya party (merchants, bankers, money-lenders, dealers in grains or in spices, traders or commercial enterprises). Hence all of them would definitely carry hard currency – whether in black or white. Why should Modi take a decision that would make most of his angry and hate him?”

“Ah…yeah, I didn’t think of it…Yeah, it is true Uday, you have a point here. The worst affected by the demonetization, must be BJP members…I never thought in that line. Why would Modi do like that – he will lose his vote bank”

“Two reasons – either he must be a fool or a pure patriot. Given his background, I am sure that he is not a fool. He is a patriot. He puts nation first and vote-bank second. At least in this case you should appreciate that.”

“No – he may have some ulterior motives. It is our duty to expose Modi,” he said.

“People like you created today’s Modi and made him larger than life. Modi was an ordinary politician in Gujarat. You people made him life-time CM of the state of Gujarat. Now that he is the Prime Minister of India, you would make him life-time PM of India. When you attack him from left, right and middle, without any solid facts and figures, you are exposed. He becomes stronger and stronger. There is no stuff in you, that’s why you just blame Modi.”

“I don’t understand…”

“Boss, keep your prejudice and conditioned mind away from reporting. A journalist’s primary duty is to be neutral. When you report nonsense about Modi, I can understand that you are doing it under pressure. Every journalist in this world needs money to survive so need to listen to the employer. (http://udaypai.in/media-savvy-jackass-youll-believe-anythi…/) But, my question is that, personally, why would you be biased and carry so much hatred? Let’s give first priority to our country.”

“Ah – Modi got a new Bhakt – it is unlikely of you Uday,” he said.

“Why are you dividing India into pro-Modi and anti-Modi? I don’t need any certificate or favour from any politician. If somebody does good for the country, let’s support him/her. Don’t blame a person, just because you don’t like him.”

I am not saying his move was foolproof. The authorities would have left enough room for authorities to deal with unanticipated consequences.

I know the seasoned dealers in black money market are well equipped to avoid the intended trap. This situation, as always, will only add to the misery of common people and small traders. But somebody has to do something somewhere to jump-start India. For the last couple of decades we were a country without any responsible leadership. Nobody was responsible or accountable for anything. Today, at least we can blame Modi.

Its’ true that common people are getting irritated and some of them started protesting against demonetization. Common man faces many problems today. Unless small denominations are made available this exercise is not going to help much. And saying goes thus ‘Ignorant worker will spoil the tool”. I do hope that our PM knows this very well and will handle this.

Udaylal Pai
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