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Demonetisation: How do the Commoners React to it?

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Prof. Bhaskar dwells on two aspects of demonetisation. The sway of the media perhaps creates panic. People act silly, often like chopping off the branch that they are sit on. With the call for Bharat Band by the Opposition parties on Monday (Nov 28), he wonders if Modi is riding the tiger. He also tells us how Maoists have found newer forms of corruption. He cites cases of subjugation that do not allow ‘free thinking’ and forces a low paid ad hoc employee to work for free in the house of the administrator of a research institute in Allahabad. Here are observations of a social scientist, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.

A few years back, I had the opportunity to interact with the participants in Kalyani University on state intervention in food grains, etc. The participants were basically engaged in self-farming after they completed their Intermediate. At one stage, they asked me, “Why ‘foodflation’ was there?” They meant why the prices of vegetables were rising at that time. I was a bit surprised why the producers-cum- sellers were raising self-defeating questions. I asked them. They replied, “It is being reported in print media.” I failed to convince them the intricacies of political economy that it was because of urban bias.

I repeat the similar observation. Though people have ‘sense’, they rarely have ‘common sense’. The latter is becoming almost extinct. Let me cite the plight Kalidasa before he became a learned scholar – chopping off the branch of the tree on which he was seated. But, most of the people standing in the queue, despite several hassles, are not much different. The sway of the media is such that a panic-like situation prevails. Possibly, it is because of compulsions (read fears) or that they are ready to face hardships. I wonder if it’s a masochist streak in the polity!

What remains hidden under the carpet is the continuous testing of the commoners. The launching of different welfare programmes/schemes in the name of common man remain hidden in official red tapism. Meanwhile, common men wait, labour on daily basis, and hardly understand the long-term consequence of these schemes. At the best, they remain the ‘consequence’ of development by programmes/schemes rather than trying to be the cause of it. My observation is demonetisation-neutral!

Demonetisation: Is Modi riding the Tiger?

I was shocked when I heard that the Maoists were depositing money of denominations Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 through innocent people (read Adivasis or forest-dwellers) in the banks following 11/8 demonetisation – that they are doing it using Jan Dhan Yojana Accounts.

Rumours are always palatable for the middle class and is probably spread by the stupid and the crooks alike. In matters of gossip there is no difference between the two.

As I recollect, the first and probably last credible Report on Black Money was the 1978 Wanchoo Committee Report or Direct Taxes Inquiry Committee Report that started with defining black money as unaccounted money, concealed income, and undisclosed wealth. Only a tiny part of that defined territory has been partially touched by our beloved PM – he has a long way to go. And he is certainly riding a tiger, like the ‘young lady of Niger’ in the limerick:


There was a young lady of Niger
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger;
They returned from the ride
With the lady inside,
And the smile on the face of the tiger.

I have reasons to believe that the Maoists or Mamata (Didi in Kolkata) or AK do not have the capacity to have been that ‘tiger’ – it’s worth noting that the entire Opposition has called for Bharat Bandh, on Monday (Nov 28). Now, it is for the advisers of daunting PM to anticipate what that ‘tiger’ might be and who, if at all, will have the smile at the end, Modi or the tiger! At best, Didi might have pointed out that Royal Bengal tiger is missing from the new note of denomination Rs. 2000, nothing more.

In my understanding, the real tiger is asleep. It might attack on the path of wealth/assets concealed so far in various forms. I pledge the national interest rising above partisan politics.

Are whistle blowers trouble makers?

Intelligent people continue to tolerate me, I mean, my prolonged stupidity in the public domain for what I find as use-value of mine is looked as nuisance value by many others who matter. Since I have remained incorrigible, I often forget that a system evolves through trial and error and that it has to include crooks also, the latter more religiously for it is they who can manage/manipulate the system that evolved. One of my students pursuing his D.Phil. from a reputed University in Allahabad told me a few days back, “Sir, mai system se darta hoon” (Sir, am afraid of the system). I did not ask him any more questions.

Recently, I was having a chat with one of my junior-by- age colleagues on why do people keep in some regions in India with no ultimate definite answer – that is not welcome. But what he opined was that if to be a whistle blower everything is at stake then why should people open their mouth. He explained that in the context of our conversation, it was expression of ‘dissidence’ or alternative ways of thinking about a system or an institution. Something that the powers-that- be resent. The point that came out was the person A, about whom points of dissent were sent by person B, to the higher authority C, led to an applied game, where C confronted A to consider and clarify! Where does B go? B, in this case, experiences a path of peril!

And thus the system moves on…

Unlearning Economics

I am trying to get rid of my past knowledge (arrogance for many) of Economics partially learned at Calcutta University, during the mid-1970s keeping intact unfathomable respect for the great teachers of that time. It is not that my trajectory of new learning started very recently but a recent phenomenon has been the cause of an ECG test of mine.

In a premier social science research institute at Allahabad I observed one ad hoc employee drawing around Rs. 6,000/- per month willing to labour in silent subjugation. So after I experienced my home-based drudgery for around a year – trying to run a house on my own – I asked him if he makes five chapatis for me, every evening after his work hours. I told him that I was prepared to pay Rs. 1500/- per month for his efforts. I assured him he might continue to do so as long as he wished. I had the idea that the marginal utility of one-fourth of what he had been getting at the institute at a low level of uncertain income would be very high. He declined not for the fact that he disliked the idea or me – had it been so I could have got the chance to explain that in feudal-exclusionary mode. But what he revealed was that he had been engaged as unpaid labour in the evening in the institute’s administrator’s house. I understood the (intimidating) marginal disutility of Rs. 6000/- per month, was much more than the marginal utility of hypothetical Rs. 1500/-.

Did I unlearn Economics?

©Prof. Bhaskar Majumder

Photos from the Internet.

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