On the 8th November Narendra Modi appeared on an unscheduled TV address to announce that all 500 and 1000 rupees banknotes with be completely and immediately withdrawn from circulation. His excuse for this sudden extreme economic policy was that he was tacking the corruption and black money.
The current Prime Minister of India has a history of standing for to the interest of Corporates and big business. He is especially known for his involvement and encouragement on the massacre of innocent Muslims in the Indian state Gujarat. Even before he was in power he has promoted Hindu Nationalism and used that to attack oppressed masses and minorities.
It therefore shouldn’t be a surprise that his economic policies fall disproportionately on the most poorest in the economy – who accounts as the vast majority of 1.3 billion population. This is while, the impact on the top elites and those involved in corruption will be very limited as their accumulated fortunes have almost all been converted to shares, gold and real estates. If this Modi government is serious about taking corruption and black economy their economic policies should target the rich and those using the black economy but this is not the case. For example, Kingfisher Airline owner Vijay Mallaya’s has had his Rs 1,200 crore debt (equivalent to 180 million USD) has been written off by India’s largest bank, the State Bank of India.
The Black economy is used by the super-rich to avoid paying tax for the wealth they accumulated through exploiting the labour and sweat of ordinarily people. The 2016 Panama Paper scandal leaked the documents of more than 214,000 offshore entities. The lists of names exposed include 500 elites from India including Amitabh Machchan, Aishwarya Rai, KP Singh, etc.
The total amount of currency held in cash is unknown however most of the illegal money is held in foreign banks or as a form of assets including real estate and jewellery.
Even the leading economics have classified Modi’s policy as poor economics and Kaushik Basu, the former chief economist for the World Bank, says the “collateral damage” is likely to outstrip its benefits.
To say that it’s a not a well thought through economic policy will be a massive understatement. Overnight 86% of the currencies in circulation have been declared worthless outside the bank. In an economy where the 90% of transaction are made through cash, this move has brought the Indian cash economy to a standstill.
Today marks the 10th day since the introduction of the ban and images of ordinary people queuing up day after day outside bank to deposit and exchange hard earned money and the desperate condition they are faced are just as shocking as the Day 1. When survival is a daily battle for the 99% in India, these workers, students, farmers, etc cannot afford to spend more of their time or money queuing up in extreme temperature. At least 47 people have been reported dead, with figures likely to be higher, in the chaos.
The Modi government after coming under criticism said that it will only take weeks to return to normal but leading economists predict that impact of demonetisation has been dramatic and that it might take months to be able to deal with it.
The sudden ruthless policy not only bought the country to a standstill but it caused misery and despair to the lives of millions of ordinary people.
Many of India’s 260 million farmers have no bank accounts and depend on local money lenders to fund sowing. These farmers have been left stranded as traders have no cash to pay for their produce.
Their anger is building up and this anger is looking for an expressions. In Bagalore, New Socialist Alternative in India, along with various left organisations have organised protests against the policies of BJP and #OccupyRBI. The protest mobilised people to come together and discuss fightbacks. The police that were present refused prevented slogans to be raised and although the protest was peaceful they have arrested 31 activists including New Socialist Alternative organiser Jagadish Chandra.
There are also other protests taking place across the country. The Indian Youth Congress, under the pressure of its members has organised a march towards the Parliament in Delhi. As this article goes up, these youth members and activists are subject to huge police atrocities and water cannon are used against them.
The Modi government is in fear of a bigger protest taking place and nationally they are supressing any form of political expression which is questioning his policy and power.
However they will not be able to hold back the anger of ordinary people for long. If given a direction and expression this anger can be channelled against, not only the demonetisation but, against the racist and capitalist Modi government.
Two months ago, on the 2nd of September 150 million workers took part in a national general strike of public sector workers in the world largest ever strike action. That day these workers experience the collective strength of organising. These workers along with other oppressed sections in India have to organise against these policies and make the rich pay for the crisis they caused: demand to open the book of profiteers, to bring on a progressive tax system and to nationalise the bank as the base for changing the society to a more fairer and equal economy that benefits all rather than the top 1%.
-Isai Priya, National coordinating committee member, Tamil solidarity