Thursday, December 22, 2016

Our cultural traditions and the dream of cashless economy

One proof of Indian culture being the oldest is that the animal cunningness, capacity to change colours, limitless greed, blood-feuds and devouring by betrayal are some of the original human instincts that are as fresh in our memory as at the beginning of civilisation. Others cultures tried to eliminate them; we focussed on trying to camouflage them while taking care to sharpen their edges as the society progressed. Our progress was confined to concealing them under fancy names and obscurantist practises. Greed for hoarding today is wrapped in gambling as ‘Laxmipuja’  and promiscuity has had various names. Recently it was rechristened by the Supreme Court of India as ‘one night stand.’ Thuggee until yesterday was a part of ‘Kalipuja.’ So it remains. 
       In such a scenario honesty, plain speaking, straight dealing and open diplomacy are regarded as ethics of ‘fool’s paradise.’ Constitution of India and the laws may be quite to the contrary and may strive with all their might to promote ideals acceptable to general run of humankind, we have found ways of sidetracking them when it is in our self interest to do so. Our concept of ‘the other’ is a flexible noose, a derivative of caste system and can be made to fit any neck. When we are duping the other we are celebrating Laxmipuja and are only treating the other with the contempt the other deserves. Thugee, once was and is almost a sacred duty even today. It is indulged in by the highest in the land. The book that solemnly imparts this notion is also the book that has given us the song vande mataram - our alternate national anthem.We have at least two scams to decorate every year of our independent existence.
       The dream of cashless society sold to us by goalpost shifting politicians is a one horned chimera which will never materialise in the sub-continent. Social media is already discussing the why of it. One reason is that it will lead to the gradual transformation of the worth of the currency into commission for those who run the e-wallets. One hundred rupees will passion in toto to the e-wallet portal owners in a certain number of swipes. Every labourer who earns two hundred rupees will be paying a jazyia of five or four rupees to them everyday. It is okay with everybody as a shudra is not to be allowed to amass wealth. It will not benefit the milkman or the depot holder who will be paying commission to the e-wallet portal for depositing his earnings into his own account. So whose baby will cashless transaction be?
        It is easy to imagine that the tribe of fraudsters will multiply daily when their victims increase. On the basis of our everyday experience, let us unfold the travails of a person whose money has been stolen by finger smiths who make defrauding the sole mainstay of their economic activity. Many of the thus looted persons will learn to live with the situation, like those whose pockets are picked or those unfortunate raped ones who know for sure that nothing and none will help them. They will ascribe it to their karma in the previous birth and will try to make up the losses by working harder or by telling none about it, as the case may be. The woes of others will start when they approach the authorities for restoration of their stolen money. The financial institution or the bank in question will show you many sub-clauses in small print that you signed without reading when you opened the account. You will be on your own. 
         Then you will want to register a First Information Report (FIR). You will soon find out that like a bird’s milk it cannot be easily come by. Be patient. For the sake of getting justice or recovering your money you will pay a hefty amount to register the FIR. This will not be too heavy but will become heavier like a wet blanket as it gets wetter. At every stage of investigation you will pay a certain sum to keep the process on track. You will also conduct parallel investigation to know that it is indeed on track. If the other person does not confess to the crime, it will be insinuated that you permitted him to rob you. Like in Australia you have to state that you did not permit the other person to assault you. In India that law is unwritten. 
       Then there will be delays. Philosophically we do not subscribe to concept of linear time. There is no tomorrow that will not repeat itself someday. The charge sheet of attack on Pathankot airforce base took exactly one year to file although the investigation was done by the high profile National Investigation Agency. So be patient, and in the meanwhile, maintain the Investigation Officer in good humour. Devatas are pleased by offerings. It will also involve rendering services of all kinds and running weird errands. The question of custodial interrogation required by law will not come about until you grease a palm or two. Drafting the challan will be the next hurdle. It will have a price tag if it is to be properly worded to pinpoint the crime.
       Forget that prosecution is the duty of the state. Thou shalt depend upon the public prosecutor if you want to dig your own grave. Your case may end up with a ‘siparshi’ junior lawyer who has only a peripheral acquaintance with law. You will hire a lawyer with a ‘face’ (at an exorbitant price) and he will whet both the FIR and the challan. Then he will be present to argue where the public prosecutor falters (accidently?) and to emphasise at appropriate places.     
       Each time you will have to outbid the culprit who has your money in his e-wallet and will be more generous with bribes. He will be hand in glove with the police because he is in business of defrauding and it cannot be carried out without accomplices in crucial places. All our pickpockets know that well. 
       Your persistence has paid off and now you can see the face of the court. If you have done good deeds in your previous birth, you will get a judge who is not a shirker and is diligent. Your woes are not over even if the judge is honest. There will be a dozen ‘bigwigs’ bending over backwards to curry favour with the resourceful culprit.  They will be doctors, lawyers, politicians, bureaucrats and lawmakers - all seemingly milk-washed. Before a judge they will portray him as the mainstay of such and such political party and the very incarnation of financial rectitude. The judge will know everything but will also know that he has to seek political help in his career at some stage or the other. Blindfolded, he will weigh the prospects in a fine balance. To say more will invite contempt of court and can be left unsaid. 
       Such problems will materialise also, in at least, the court of first appeal. If braving all these and several untold difficulties, you manage to get a decree then in the attempt to get it executed you will go over the same again. If your luck is as good as mine is, the chances are that you will be defrauded afresh many times while your first case awaits conclusion.
       Let it be understood plainly that this recreation of what will happen is derived from study of an actual, ongoing case. The details can be substantiated with documents. Satya mev jaiyetai is a wonderful concept and looks beautiful on the official seal.  
       There will, besides be many alternate scenarios to discourage cashless state. My driver knows a vegetable vendor in Chandigarh who owns five houses. That is because he has never issued a bill, never paid income tax and has consistently earned one hundred to two hundred percent profit on every basketful of vegetables and fruits that he has sold for the last forty years. He knows which side of the bread is buttered. No appeal to patriotism will move him to issue bills or receipts. The same goes for the meat seller, the karyana merchant and scores of cloth merchants, tailors and their ilk. No trader will confine himself to legitimate 10% profit as prescribed in many countries. No government will place such legal limit on them. Electronic cash register is an anathema to them and no government will legislate to make it compulsory - it will mean spelling their own political doom. So, who will see that bills are given, cash register is maintained, only legitimate profit is taken and e-money is accepted? 
       Assurances of the government will be empty words. Especially when there is no law so far to deal with criminal violations of property in this regard. I am writing this on the 43rd day of demonetisation when the 60th order modifying the earliest pronouncement has just come from the ‘Reverse’ Bank of India. Rules and law are in this primitive stage even now. Is the ‘organised loot’ intended to become an ‘organised loot in perpetuity?’ 
       If you are in the rural area or the semi-urban area where load shedding is the rule written in stone, these difficulties will be multiplied further. By now it should be plain to all that we are about to start a wild goose chase. It will end in misery and utter ruin of a large many despite the ‘sound’ economic theories promoted by the RBI and allied institutions.
       Is there an escape, is there a remedy to prevent the disaster? Of course there is none. Rhetoric, patriotic verbosity and legendary tolerance of the society will ensure that we march to our doom fully equipped with the knowledge of the gathering storm.  That is how it has been in our mythology. Vidur, Bhisham Pitamah and Sri Krishna knew how the Mahabharat would end. Some Ghauri, some Babur, some Clive is lurking in the thick fog to take command of our destinies. Our duty is to submit to our fate, remember what Kubja said - a slave will be a slave no matter who rules. Moksha requires us to keep doing nishkaamkaram without expecting the fruit of our labour. Ththaastu!

[December 21, 2016]

1 comment:

  1. Interesting article. We are about to discuss it in our study circle. (UK)