Prime Minister Modi's Speech: Steely ResolveIf Prime Minister Modi dropped the demonetization bombshell on national TV on November 8, it was perhaps fitting for him to address the nation after the 50-day window ended. Viewed in that context, Prime Minister Modi's speech on December 31 was an apt round-up and showed his steely resolve to fight corruption and tax evasion.
By Sunil Garodia
Without being over dramatic, Modi got across what he wanted to say that the people have supported demonetization despite hardships; that the government was committed to ease the hardships in coming days and banks have been instructed in this regard; that the corrupt, or beiman to use his word, will not be spared and roads for beimani are being closed and that everyone will have to contribute towards nation building. The sops he announced were just bonuses.
That a prime minister has the courage to accept that implementation of the scheme went awry causing many hardships to the common people is in itself a big plus. A so-called expert on NDTV had said in the pre-speech round-up that in his 35 or more years career, Modi had never admitted even a small mistake. Here was the prime minister openly saying that people were inconvenienced and the government would do all to ease it. Where will the expert hide now?
Another point the prime minister made was that despite the misinformation campaign by opposition parties, there was not a single case of revolt or uprising by the people from anywhere in the country. He rightly said that the people were fed up with corruption and amassing of wealth by the crooked and were with the government in its quest to uncover such corruption.
He also rightly pointed out that no one in India believes that only 24 lakh or so people have incomes above Rs 10 lakh (as evidenced by their income tax returns). He said the government wanted to catch people who earn more and hide, thereby depriving the country of much needed revenue for development. There can be no quarrel with that.
The prime minister has laid down the governments intentions on the table. The corrupt and the tax evaders will have no place to hide. Demonetization and the subsequent deposit of banned currency notes in bank accounts will lift the cover off their nefarious activities. The government is going to go after them and the parallel economy.
Prime Minister Modis speech just reiterated his and the governments resolve to further escalate the fight against all financial irregularities going on in the parallel economy. The common refrain that India is a cash dependent economy is not going to work this time. If it is cash dependent, then the time has come to make it less so. Cash does not leave any trail. Transactions are hidden and incomes are not reported. Apologists for this form of business should change their views.
The only disappointment one had was that despite touching on political funding and spending reforms, the prime minister did not go whole hog and ban all cash donations over Rs 500 to political parties. Modi has to realize that all his efforts will come to naught if he is unable to usher in reforms of funding of political parties. Most people have to earn in black as they need to pay-off politicians in black. Hence, these reforms will form the basis of a corruption free India.