Exactly a year ago, on the evening of 8 November 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in a surprise broadcast that beginning midnight, currency notes of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 were denominations to be pulled from circulation, and would be rendered invalid for any transactions. On 7 November this year, ANHAD, a non-governmental organisation run by the social activist Shabnam Hashmi, and 32 other organisations released a report titled Demonetisation: Exorcising the “Demon.” Over January and February, ANHAD conducted a survey of 3,647 respondents across 21 states and union territories in the country, on the public perceptions of demonetisation, and its aftermath. In addition to the findings of the survey, the report also includes the analyses of several issues that arose out of the policy decision, such as its effectiveness in dealing with the initial goals of eliminating black money, counterfeit currency, and terror financing; the government’s shifting narratives on the motive behind demonetisation; and the impact on people across the country.
In the following excerpt from the report, PVS Kumar, a retired scientist who was formerly working with the premier national research and development organisation the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, analyses the government efforts towards establishing a cashless economy, and the related concerns that arose out of demonetisation. Kumar notes that, “Going digital should be a choice of the citizen, the consumer and not the government's dictate.” He adds, “Eliminating this choice is excluding those who cannot or do not wish to go digital.”
The big difference between cash payments and other “digital /electronic” payments (the so-called cashless payments) is as a service fee—paying by cash is free at the point of use. When I pay you in cash, neither of us incurs a fee for my settling my account with you by handing over notes or coins.