It has been a month since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the scrapping of Rs 500 and 1000 currency notes. While making the announcement, he had said that this would "strengthen the hands of the common man in the fight against corruption, black money and fake currency".
However, Baij Nath Rai, president of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), the labour wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), criticised the Prime Minister for his 'ill-prepared move', and said the demonetisation exercise had failed completely.
BMS is India's largest central trade union organisation, and one of its objectives is to "assist workers in organising themselves in trade unions as a medium of service to the motherland irrespective of faiths and political affinities".
According to Rai, job growth has gone down drastically in the last three years, and worsened during the one month of demonetisation, with daily wage earners being the worst hit. Rai spoke to Catch from Kerala, where he is currently on tour. Excerpts:
It's been a month since the Prime Minister took the nation by surprise and announced the note ban. What are your views on the success of the scheme?
It certainly is a good step for the economy, but only in the long run. In the last one month, we have only seen how much trouble this exercise has caused to the common man.
There are people waiting in queues across the country, which raises questions about the preparedness of those who took the decision. There are lot of questions on the implementation part, considering things are nowhere near normalcy even after a month.
The government should have made enough preparations before announcing a scheme of this proportion, but that wasn't the case, which is evident from what is happening across the country. The government failed in preempting the troubles such a move could lead to.
What preparations are you hinting at?
They should have opened more accounts, so that those who do not have accounts could have deposited their money in these accounts. Moreover, the government should have ensured that the banks are prepared to take on such a herculean task.
The worst hit are the daily wage earners, who have no accounts and are being asked to go to banks to get their pay, or even their money exchanged.
The government has ignored all this. Though I don't doubt its intent, but the implementation part was certainly way below the mark.
How has demonetisation affected the job growth in the country?
Forget about this period, we have been witnessing huge job losses in the last three years. More than 20 lakh jobs have been lost in these years, while only 1,35,000 jobs have been created. As far as demonetisation is concerned, people in the unorganised sector are the worst hit, and are facing lot of hardships.
Contractors do not have cash to pay workers, especially the ones engaged in the real estate sector. Even daily wage earners like blacksmiths, jewellers, electricians, among others, do not have enough money at their disposal because of the severe cash crunch.
If the government would have ensured that these people had bank accounts, their troubles would have been not of such proportion.
Will the currency ban help in curbing black money, as stated by the Prime Minister and others in government?
The intent was to bring back black money, but that purpose has been completely defeated. People who are resourceful enough have found ways to turn their black money white. The recent seizures from across the country suggest that black money has yet again made its way back.
The only way black money can be curbed is if we don't deal in cash, but that is not possible for a country like ours. Even if there is a little cash in the economy, black money would always be there.
So, what are your views on India turning into a cashless economy, as being propagated by the Prime Minister?
It can never happen, and would create many complications. How will daily wagers survive if they don't get cash in hand everyday? People are talking about Paytm, but how will an uneducated hawker use it? A vegetable vendor can't be expected to use Paytm to make all his transactions.
BMS is India's largest trade union organisation. Do you have any plans to take this up with the Prime Minister or the government?
Our working committee will meet in January in Pune, and then we will discuss the matter extensively. At present, we demand that contractors should be given some advance to pay the workers and daily wagers.
Also, the government should ensure everyone has a bank account, especially those from the unorganised sector.
Edited by Shreyas Sharma
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