“It is White Modi Versus Black People”: Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd on the Government’s Demonetisation Policy

25 November 2016

Since 8 November 2016, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the unexpected announcement that the government was demonetising notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000, the country has been engulfed in chaos. The situation has been worse for those in rural or semi-urban areas: currency notes have taken longer to reach these regions since a sizeable majority of the bank branches and ATMs in India are located in urban areas. In rural areas, both the supply and demand for commodities have reduced, leading to a vicious cycle that perpetuates the absence of liquid cash in the market. The informal economy that is prevalent in these regions too has been disrupted.

On 16 November 2016, Sagar, a web reporter with The Caravan, spoke to Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd, a social scientist and political philosopher. During the conversation, Shepherd spoke about the impact of demonetisation on lower-caste communities and labourers of the unorganised sector, the inefficacy of this measure in dealing with black money and its consequence on the economy and the upcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh. Shepherd told Sagar that the most adverse effect of the Modi government’s decision would be on those who are already marginalised. He added that this policy was not as much a crack-down on black money as it was a strike on “black people”—those who spent the entirety of their day on physical labour in the sun. In the government’s move, Shepherd also sees at play a nexus between Brahmins and Baniyas. 

Sagar: On 14 November 2016, a week after he had announced that notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 would be demonetised, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the corrupt were upset while the poor were “enjoying a sound sleep.” Do you agree with this proposition?

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    Sagar is a staff writer at The Caravan.

    Keywords: Dalits RSS demonetisation black money Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd Narendra Mod Bharatiya Janata Party Tribal communities