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Demonetization as Indian tragedy: Modi’s silence on specifics of black money

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Indians are today reeling not under the terrorism or cross border fires at LOC, but by the painful effects of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetization move, that besides making the life common masses extremely miserable and intolerable, also is crippling national economy and prestige abroad. Ruling Barathiya Janata Party (BJP) is in a fix now as some state polls are round the corner.

Both urban and rural India have been hit hard by artificial cash crunch post the demonetisation exercise announced on 8 November by PM Modi ostensibly to kill black money in the economy, fake currency, corruption and terror funding.

Modi thanked the nation for supporting the demonetisation drive and acknowledged the resultant on account of an acute cash crunch. He urged the banking system to bring back normalcy in transactions at the earliest and made a case for transparency in the finances of political parties.

The note ban invited severe criticism from his political rivals and a section of economists. Hence, this was an opportunity for PM Modi to take the nation into confidence by giving hard facts on the status of the demonetisation exercise by giving clarity on issues with regard to its originally stated goals of war on black money, corruption and fake currency. The PM should have left the goodies for finance minister Arun Jaitely, formerly a strong EC member of BCCI, to dole out in his 2017 budget slated just a month later.

Demonetization has weakened economy and trade, reduced the GDP, killed more than 100 people, including farmers. Currently, the whole of India is suffering. Ordinary people gave their life because of the idiotic, short-sighted order of this one man. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), unemployment rates rose to 6.1 percent in the week of 4 December and further to 6.6 percent in the week ended 11 December and then to 7 percent in the week ended 18 December. Also, there were reports of vegetable farmers taking huge losses as the prices plummeted in the market forcing many of them to dump their produce.

The TV panelists of the BJP can be seen shifting uncomfortably when asked difficult questions from the anchor. They have no other reason to tolerate these interviews than defending the egoistic order of their prime minister. The BJP ministers are not able to open their mouth. They don’t have any voice under the Modi’s dictatorship. The BJP leaders and the cadres also sat through the effects of the economic disaster imposed on ordinary citizens, but did not speak out and voice their concern for the common people. The majority of his supporters may be are in the organized sector and already have smart phones in their hands. That is just negligible part of voters. the farmers, daily coolies, etc must have smart phones in order to participate in any survey on demonetization. .

The demonetization is not an economic policy to curb black money or fake money. It is a blind attack on the poor people of India, But, known for his thirst for fame abroad as well as indoors, Modi, fully aware that his plans have failed badly, addressed India on New Year’s Eve on December 31 on national television, giving no details of his demonetization move. He may have felt sorry for the poor but has not sought their forgiveness. Instead, the shrewd politician Modi presented nothing short of a mini-rural budget in his much-hyped speech doling out sops meant for the poor and farmers. The package included interest subventions on small ticket home loans (up to Rs 12 lakhs), 60-day interest rate waiver on farm loans taken from cooperative banks, higher credit limit and government guarantee for small traders.

None of the people who use black money are suffering hardship, or waiting in seemingly endless queues or risk losing their lives. Through the bank officials and agents the black money is mostly converted into the new Rs 2000 notes easily. Modi is batting for the rich not for the deprived sections of the society Modi expected India to become cashless overnight and India currently has 85 percent of unorganized sector employees, and to these people Modi is asking them to buy smart phones to help make the Indian economy cashless.

Having committed a serious crime against Indians by betraying their trust in the BJP government, PM Modi has tried to blame all negative outcomes on others, officals, .etc Indian PM’s speech is devoid of specifics of black money, party funding, estate cum sand mafias, and cash curbs, among others.

Since Modi focused on black money the specifics PM Modi should have spoken in his address should be Black money. What is the status of his government’s war on black money? The banking system is estimated to have received over Rs 14 lakh crore deposits in invalidated currencies since 10 November, 2016. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) hasn’t given updated numbers beyond 10 December.

Cash crunch: The PM urged the banking system to bring back normalcy at the earliest, but what about his promise of 50-days made repeatedly since demonetisation to end the pain of the common man, which he has clearly failed to fulfill. The cash-crunch has eased a bit with queues turning shorter at ATMs and bank branches. The RBI’s announcement to increase the ATM cash withdrawal limit to Rs 4,500 per day from Rs 2,500 earlier is a welcome move, but this does not help much given that 2/3rd of ATMs in the country are still running dry as noted in an earlier column. The weekly withdrawal limit of Rs 24,000 per week stays. In this backdrop, PM Modi should have offered guidance to the public as to when will the cash curbs end and the situation back to normal, acknowledging that he couldn’t meet his 50-day promise. Such an admission and clarity would have gained more support for him.

Political funding: During his speech, Modi urged political parties to come clean on their finances and shed their ‘holier than thou’ attitude. That is a good move, but of no use, since our politicians are not used to acting on good intentional words. They all drink from the same pot, after all. Had it not been the case, there would not have been a situation in India where political parties have become the biggest hoarders and facilitators of black money. Instead of requesting them, PM Modi should have shown the courage to lay out his government plans to make the necessary changes in the existing laws to overhaul political funding and make all such transactions in the digital mode.

If the government can insist the common man to change their cash transactions to digital mode, why can’t it ask the same of political parties, too? If the existing laws are a hurdle, it should amend it. No political party would dare oppose such a proposal since they risk getting exposed in public. Why was the PM silent on such a radical reform step in his speech given his government’s stance on black money?

Compensation for demonetisation victims: There is no clear estimate of the number of jobs loss post-demonetisation and the extent of losses to small traders in perishable segments and service sectors due to cash crunch. But, lakhs of jobs in the informal sector have been reportedly lost due to the note ban.

There is no clarity so far either from the RBI and the finance ministry on the amount of deposits received and how much of it has already been reckoned as illegal cash by taxmen. Also, what is the plan ahead to deal with black money in benami assets? Given the hardships the general public had to undergo for the war on black money, something that Modi himself has acknowledged, shouldn’t he have given an update on the gains of demonetisation — no matter how small it is — after 50 days of the drive? The PM was totally silent on those numbers and the way ahead.

Why was the PM silent on any compensation to these people, who are victims of a policy move initiated by him?

PM Modi’s New Year speech was high on rhetoric and low on facts and specifics. The PM’s silence on specifics has given room for his political rivals and critics to up their attacks on demonetisation and has caused the prevailing uncertainty to continue, which wouldn’t augur well for his government, the economy and the common man. In that sense, the New Year speech was a missed opportunity for PM Modi.

Voters of India voted for Modi’s party the BJP with belief of the magic word ‘development’. of Modi who used Gujarat development as a model for entire nation during parliamentary poll campaign 2014 would make them rich. But today they are running post to pallor for daily expenditures . .Modi ridiculed the policies of Congress led UPA government as failures and pledged splitting the back money from abroad among the people of India. He refuses to disclose the names of Swiss bank account holders. He is silent on that promise, while common folk sill expects money in their bank accounts. Similarly people of Indian thought Modi’s demonetization drive would add more money to their bank balance and they are poorer today than ever before. .

Dictator-style decision making, the Prime Minister of the largest democracy in the world announces the demonetization decision of withdrawing Rs 500 and Rs 1000 from the public domain starting on November 8th and since then the RBI has changed the rules of withdrawal limits 71 times.

Indians are still patient in regards to Modi’s election dance because they still believe that he could deposit 15 lakhs in their bank account, a statement promised during his election campaign and that is why they have taken themselves to streets seeking justice or approached the courts for money settlements. The patience of India’s people should not be taken for granted by the BJP; however it should be acknowledged, understood and appreciated. Modi now has no way to turn, and has gave his attention to the slogan of eradicating the black money from India.

For the people of India, especially the common people, demonetization is a tragedy and betrayal by their leader – ruler, though for Modi it is another comedy.

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South Asia

“Haqeeqi Azaadi” or “Political Invasion”?

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You call it a “Long March” or an “Azaadi March” or a “Haqeeqi Azaadi March” and lastly according to some people “Political invasion of the capital”; whatever attempt it may be, the impact of this “Long March” will not be “Short” at all. Seems like history is repeating. Yesterday, it was PTI, later it was TLP, then JUIF, PDM & now again PTI. This reminds us about a Supreme Court’s historic judgment on Faizabad Sit in by Supreme Court, which is quite relevant again in these crucial times. The historic judgment of Supreme Court on Suo moto quotes that “The leaders of the dharna intimidated, hurled threats, abused, provoked and promoted hatred. The media provided unabated coverage. Inflammatory speeches were delivered by irresponsible politicians. Some unscrupulous talk-show hosts incited and provoked citizens.” Isn’t the situation once again similar? Doesn’t it seem like history is repeating? Few analysts consider it to be a worst kind of situation.

Supreme Court writes in its judgment that “the freedom of speech and expression and of the press are fundamental right. However, these rights cannot be used to denigrate or undermine the glory of Islam, security or defence of Pakistan, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, or commission of or incitement to an offence.  He categorically mentions that “PEMRA Ordinance mirrors the restrictions as set out in Article 19 of the Constitution and further prohibits broadcasts which are, “likely to create hatred among the people or is prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order or is likely to disturb public peace and tranquility.” So, Supreme Court has already given clear instructions that if some event is likely to disrupt peace and tranquility, media broadcasts can be prohibited.

Insiders say that we are in a dead end and this is the most crucial time of history for Pakistan, especially when the economic fate has to be decided by IMF on 25th May when Imran khan marches on Islamabad. So let’s playout the possible upcoming scenarios which political stakeholders may have to consider;

  1. Marching towards Islamabad with huge crowds is one thing but forcing a government to dissolve assemblies with this crowd is another thing. Imran Khan very well knows this is a do or die situation for his political career as well. He knows his March will only succeed if he can force an early election.
  2. Bringing larger mobs to Islamabad will only be fruitful if there is some kind of disruption by the present government or by the PTI itself. IK knows that a prolonged sit in without happenings in the red zone won’t be impactful.
  3. PTI leaders have been repeatedly convincing people including government employees, Army officers and police to bring their families in their Haqeeqi Azaadi March. The question which arises is that “Why IK doesn’t bring own family members to join the “Jihad” or “Haqeeqi Azaadi”?
  4. IMF has to take crucial decision on Pakistan’s economic fate. Without an IMF Package, a Srilanka type scenario may arise. The decision will come on the same date as of long march, on 25th May. This is a do or die situation for Pakistan’s economy. So the leaders of this March should definitely come with a futuristic economic plan and tell the masses how will they get rid of this dire economic situation.
  5. While Srinagar Highway will be full of Marchers led by the so-called Ambassador of Kashmir, a big decision is expected to come from Srinagar about Yasin Malik. Unfortunately, it is expected that his sentencing maybe announced on 25th May as well.

The government also has limited options. They are arresting leaders of PTI. They are raiding houses in their own panic mode which will further incite the situation. The removal of fuel subsidiary has become inevitable and when it happens it will be the most unpopular decision. Rising, Inflation will cut purchasing power. Finalization of IMF program has brought them to a dead end.

The dread is in the air. 25th May is around the corner. It is Crucial. It is Do or Die for Pakistan. We must fear!!

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South Asia

When Politics turns Personal; The Toxic Allegations & Accusations become a Norm

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Image source: timeofpakistan.com

There is something happening beneath this political turmoil which is NOT looking good!!

Whenever Political landscape turns into a Personal battleground, defeats become unacceptable. These past few days are a perfect case study to see that how Political elite in Pakistan has done whatever it took it to stay in power. In this power grab scenario, there could be numerous losses including the integrity of institutions. We have unfortunately entered into a very dangerous phase, where some political stakeholders have put all stakes at risk, where they have stretched their limits beyond a constitutional limit, all to gather mass support, all to stay in power and avoid defeat. Is it a threat of losing power? Is it a double game? Is it a practical hybrid war we are fighting?  Whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to be good. All is at stake, all is at risk and all is toxic.

As if the political temperature was not noxious enough, Shireen Mazari Saga took place. Once again, accusations, allegations and assumptions started pouring in against the state institutions. Soon after her arrest, her daughter, a lawyer herself Imaan Zainab Mazari alleged that her mother was beaten by male police officers during the arrest. But few minutes later, a video clip surfaced that showed clearly that her mother was arrested by Female Police officers in broad daylight and as per the law. Lie number 1 of the daughter stood exposed. Within moments, without any cogent evidence the lady, known for many controversies in the past targeted state institution for such an act, although the anti-corruption already had taken responsibility of her arrest.

Abuse of power can never be tolerated, regardless of who it targets or from where it emanates. This mantra is true and everyone has an equal belief on it but let’s take a deep dive to see that how politics turned dirty in this case, how blame game took place and how this entire episode was used as a tool to churn propaganda against Army leadership and Armed Forces.

1. The anti-corruption police had arrested Shireen Mazari and she herself accepted that Prime Minister and Interior minister were responsible for my arrest. But the mother daughter nexus brazenly started blaming institutions without any solid evidence. Shouldn’t there be an inquiry on this too?

2. PTI was always of the opinion that why courts were opened mid night to send IK packing while he wasn’t listening to anyone however when same court gave a verdict in favor of PTI ex minister, late night, it was celebrated and much appreciated by Shireen Mazari & IK who have been spearheading anti judicial tirade until recently. Isn’t it blatant hypocrisy? Judicial inquiry has been ordered by the Court which is a positive sign, but the serious allegations which Mazari nexus have raised must also be inquired during this newly formed judicial inquiry. Should the Judiciary not question them on hurling these baseless allegations?

3. The present government, whose Police itself arrested Shireen Mazari disowned this attempt. Attorney General displayed his ignorance about the matter in front of the court. So, somehow the government created this impression in the public eye that they are not to be blamed for the arrest of Shireen Mazari. Was it a double game? Or a deliberate effort to discredit institutions?

Pakistan is already facing serious economic downfall, political uncertainty and civil strife. PTI has also announced Long March to Islamabad on 25th May which is likely to further exacerbate already fragile political and economic instability. It has become quite evident now for achieving petty political ends, our political elite has no serious resolve to address the crisis confronting the country. Country is being deliberately pushed to limits of economic and political dead end. The political immaturity and lack of vision to handle the crisis situation is also hurting the repute of institutions amidst internal political wrangling. If political leadership doesn’t come to grips of the critical situation prevailing which is likely to aggravate further in coming days, people of Pakistan in particular and the country in general are likely to suffer unprecedented damage. Political elite must put its acts together and steer the country out of prevalent political and economic crisis by showing sagacity and political wisdom until it’s too late.

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South Asia

Accusations to Acknowledgement: The Battle of Article 63 A

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The weather is heating up. As the May is ending, Political temperatures are soaring. The fate regarding the country’s political and economic stability will be measured in the upcoming days. Earlier, PDM built momentum by taking on institutions. Maryam Nawaz raised the temperature by targeting key personalities and institutions. Allegations were bursting against the institutions in all dimensions. Today, we witness reversal of roles. Accusations have been outflowing in every Jalsa by PTI. But now suddenly, the “accusations” turned into “acknowledgment”. “Complaints” started transforming into “Compliments”. Is it the change of narrative? Is it another U-turn? Or is it the restoration of confidence in the institutions? Where will this chaos end?

The Supreme Court’s “decision” or as they say “opinion” or “binding” on Article 63 A has raised some pertinent questions on the status of CM Punjab election? In the interpretation of Article 63 A of the constitution, the Supreme court categorically condemns the practice of horse trading by calling it “a cancer afflicting the body politic”. Supreme Court in its decision of 3-2 rejected the vote count of these dissident members against the party directives. So the future of the Chief Executive of Punjab is now under threat because it is contrary to what happened in National Assembly. The political instability continues and the situation is messy.

In light of this verdict, Hamza has a support of 172 MPAs in Punjab assembly but at the same time, he also has 4 dissenting members which draws the figure to 168. Now further moving ahead, PTI and alliance also has a collective figure of 168 votes minus 21 dissenting members. The situation here in Punjab is way too complex now. A support of 186 members is required for a clear majority in Punjab assembly to formulate a government. This current Punjab government can either fall through a governor led vote of no confidence or a Supreme court order. The governor even has a right to dissolve the assembly with his discretionary powers according to Article 112 (2) of the constitution. Supreme Court has already made its decision on cross voting against Party fiat.  Now legal experts are interpreting the decision in their own dictionaries. What will happen in Punjab? What will happen on the federal level? Will there be an election call? If so, what will be the care taker setup? Will there be a fresh mandate? Who will make the hard economic decisions?  Lot needs to be answered in these crucial times.

From “My judges disappointed me” to “Thankyou Supreme Court”, a lot has happened and a lot is ready to take place. Islamabad is full of gossips, interpretations, whispers and predictions these days. There is something seething under this political turmoil. The Red zone is under a lot of pressure whether politically or economically. Pre – Elections, Elections and then Post elections, we have a lot of consequences of a lot of hard decisions. But hard decisions need to be taken. Question is who is ready to make the hard choices? Be Afraid!!

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