Crowd-sourcing a column

So, I need some help.

I’ve been asked to do an essay on demonetization, as we on November 8 mark one year of the announcement.

It is a subject that has produced an endless stream of analysis and opinion, seemingly leaving no room for a fresh take on the topic. I’d appreciate help in thinking through this one, hence this request: could you guys provide your take on demonetization, in the comments field? The pluses, the minuses, your thoughts on how the issue polarized the country and why, how informed you feel on the subject and where you think there is a lack of specificity…

It’s an open thread, so please feel free to post whatever thoughts you have, without feeling the need to adhere to the questions above.

Which reminds me, I owe some of you responses to your comments on the media in response to my question here. I’ll get to those now, before I disappear back into work. (PS: Struggling with a few deadlines, so blogging will be somewhat sporadic for the rest of the week).

21 thoughts on “Crowd-sourcing a column

  1. Pingback: How money changed cricket | Smoke Signals

  2. Hi Prem,

    When demonetization was announced, I had no idea about it’s advantages or limitations. My friends and colleagues told that it is a ‘masterstroke’ and all the stashed money by the corrupt people are worthless papers. Everyone, everywhere were telling the same. I too believed the same. I couldn’t accept Modi’s statement that it is ‘end of corruption in India’. But, believed that it would bring about a change.

    Two days after demonetization was announced, I asked an auto-walah in Bangalore how much is that affecting their daily life since there is scarcity of money. He responded that ‘Modi ji is asking us to adjust for a short while so that he can fix things. It’s only for a short while no? Can’t we do this for ourselves?’. I was surprised by his response and more so by his attitude towards the current situation. Over the next few days, a few of my friends contacted me seeking my help to convert their black to white( which I politely refused). Also came to know through trusted sources that a a few big shots in TN and Kerala are also clueless about how to convert that money. That validated my colleagues’ claims and made me more hopeful of the ‘Achche Din’. I too got to the same mindset as that of the Autowala.

    At the same time, there were articles by experts floating around saying that DeMo is a bad move. I ignored all those comments initially. Then a few deaths which happened while waiting in the queue were reported. I thought that mainstream media is blowing things out of proportion. As days passed by, the rules, restrictions and procedures were being changed everyday. Sometimes multiple times on the same day. I turned to my colleagues and they said that such a drastic measure would have such small mistakes and reassured me about the ‘Achche Din’. But, my hopes were diminishing day-by-day. By the end of November, there was an article based on RBI released data that ‘two-thirds of the 500s and 1000s'(apart from the reserve in RBI) has been returned. With a month remaining, there is a good chance for that one-third as well to be returned. So, that would mean that either there is no black money in the country or the entire black money has been converted to white. I was like, What the F***!

    After a couple of weeks came to know that all my friends who approached me for conversion had successfully accomplished their mission. I digged the old reviews by experts. But, the jargons were too much for me and I could understand only a little. In one article, a guy had mentioned that all the black money which were dormant earlier will start earning interests soon. Once again, I was like What the F***.

    Slowly, I came to realize that it is not just me, even the BJP had/had no idea about the implications of DeMo. They are still in the pursuit of finding the real purpose of such a move.

    In current times, it is really difficult to understand the correct info about anything. There is too much noise everywhere. Even some which seem like credible sources are too technical. Same is the case with GST as well.

    • Your post here is representative of the mental path of many on the subject. An initial puzzlement but equally a belief that someone must have thought such a huge step through so if that someone says good times will result, there has to be something to it. Then the drip-drip of evidence to the contrary, which we brush aside as biased/one-sided, because we have sold ourselves on the notion that was peddled to us of the impending Achche Din. Then the one or two incidents that tip the scales, and which you find irrefutable and forces you to change your mind — by when, of course, it is too late for too many folks.

      It speaks to the central problem of our times. We say we no longer know who to believe. My submission is, that is the wrong question — the real question, that will yield us the right answer, is WHAT to believe.

      In other words, discount all that everyone says. Everyone. A press conference, a speech, a statement — these are all meant to plant information in our heads. What someone says is not evidence, so for my part, when I read something, if it is just a statement unsupported by hard evidence I ignore it. If there are facts in there, I go looking to see if I can confirm it, if it is in fact true. If I can’t find confirmation I park the thought, without either buying it or rejecting it, till facts become available.

      One example: When demonetization was announced, one of the things I heard was that it would stop terrorism. I put the thought on hold, but I made it a habit over the next few days to check the terrorism portal: at least every other day. (You can on that portal get timelines for Kashmir, for Chattisgarh, etc with a search). Arun Jaitley, even as late as day before yesterday, says terror has been curtailed — I dismiss it, because I have hard evidence to the contrary. (Ironically, a day after Jaitley last said that, reports speak of an extended face off between terrorists and security personnel in Kashmir).

      It is admittedly some trouble to look for facts — but it is far more trouble to be ill informed.

  3. Prem, I liked your article in BuzzFeed last month.
    Since a year has passed, I see demonetization from a different angle now than I did a year ago.

    My interest in politicians is to see how psychologically balanced or imbalanced they seem to be and in turn what kind of policy decisions they make in spite of their baggage. I see demonetization from that angle as well. Most, if not all, politicians, after winning an election in a big way, get trapped in the ‘wanting to do something big’ for the country or even the world. An election win just goes into their head very quickly. President George W Bush wanted to bring democracy to the middle-east by force – oxymoronic and more importantly idiotic. Most, if not all, successful politicians would rather spend time surrounded by the crowds of adoring supporters instead of sitting down in dark rooms to negotiate for votes from the opposition to get the policy they prefer enacted. In the first two years of his presidency, President Bill Clinton would run away from DC to give speeches at the campaign-like rallies every time Sen. Bob Dole threw a wrench into his plans. The politicians with so much need for love from strangers must feel unloved and hence must have a deep seated anger within. If the news report I read in Feb 2014 was accurate, the tone with which CM Modi spoke to the US Amb. Nancy Jo Powell during the conversation about Mrs. Khobragade that left Ms. Powell shaken points to something in there. Most, if not all, successful politicians who get to be the chiefs of the executive branches of their countries, start thinking that they are the only one in the country who can make their citizens’ lives better. Indira Gandhi was suffering from this affliction quite badly.

    Is Modi suffering from the same afflictions with which most politicians do? Quite likely. I still can’t understand why he was giving speeches in Madison Square Garden and in other cities in western countries when he had already won the election in such a big way. It was the time to go into a dark room and work hard. First six months is the honeymoon period and that is when the hard policy decisions could be taken without repercussions. People will judge him with more clarity on such issues long after he is gone. I wish him a much longer life than most people with alert mind and good body so that he can reflect on his tenure when he is ready to do so.

    Now back to demonetization. I see a pattern in Arun Jaitley’s speeches during the one year since Nov. 8 last year. Every time a bad news comes about the slowing economy, Jaitley counters with — ‘we are collecting more revenue and hence the economy is doing well.’ Perhaps he is being too honest with the public. If Jaitley is in sync with PM Modi’s thinking perhaps their mind is more towards collecting higher revenue than doing anything else to improve the economy. PM Modi has said many times that he was not happy that the small and medium businesses were not paying their share of taxes. And perhaps, demonetization was the first salvo of many upcoming threats towards the small and medium businesses to tell them that he is coming to collect taxes from them in a big way. Perhaps he wanted to send the first threat with a big bang and nothing else. Going to war against the most productive section of your own citizenry is as idiotic as President Bush’s Iraq war was. Just as President Bush’s lies about the weapons of mass destruction, the reasons given for demonetization were all lies too. Neither the weapons of mass destruction were found nor the black money was. Or, perhaps, just as nuts like Paul Wolfowitz were able to convince President Bush about the presence of the weapons of mass destruction and the celebratory welcome of the US military by the citizens of Iraq, certain unknown nutty friends of PM Modi in India were able to convince him that they will find huge sums of the black money. Either way PM Modi, a typical successful politician, wanted to do something big for the country and he did it.

    • I’ll take your second point first because it cuts to the root of governance. And it is interesting that you brought up the Clinton/Dubya era, because it is during that period that I got interested in the inner workings of government, and also had the opportunity to sit with people who were part of those two governments, to understand how things worked or didn’t.

      The opportunity you speak of, the honeymoon period, is actually also the biggest problem. Almost inevitably, a politician inherits not merely opportunities, but also problems. Clinton inherited an economic one; Dubya a societal one. And equally inevitably, problems affecting a society/country cannot be solved with a magic bullet; you need to think through and put in place policies that will bear fruit years later. (If you are both intelligent and lucky, they will bear fruit in time for re-election — vide Clinton with the economy in his first term). But typically, such long-term measures are not “sexy” and a politician who has been elected with a lot of hope looks to justify his own hype, and the hope he generated, by “doing something big”. Almost inevitably, such “big” things crumble because the pol didn’t wait for the requisite period of study and thought; nor, equally inevitably, does he discard an original idea when he hears experts saying no, because he is so full of his own sense of omnipotence (The big idea for Dubya, for instance, was to use the climate of war to invade Iraq, capture its resources, use that to pump up the economy. Sounded good when the neocons propagated it, would have collapsed under expert scrutiny but he was at a point where he thought he could get away with anything).

      Another problem when you assume office for the first time is, you have to spend a lot of time studying how things work on the inside of governance, how the machinery functions. This takes time. Suddenly, your five-year term has shrunk by two years, before you really have a grip. So you realize oh shit, can’t do something slow-burn, you need a big-impact idea. But like I said, if such things as magic bullets existed then the previous fellow would have done it, no?

      It is the Modi problem in a nutshell. For his first three years, all he was doing (besides wasting time going around the country and the world fighting a battle he had already won) was tweak existing schemes — Aadhar, MNREGA, whatever. None of which was going to solve a problem, or move the economy and people’s lives in the “good” direction, but hey, what *was* he to do? And then he realizes that none of the things he did is making a difference to anyone, pro or con. He forgot that the first rule of government, as of medicine, is “First, do no harm”. He wanted a big idea, something that would play to his stump speeches. He had tried to deal with black money, first with SIT, then the attempt to get foreign banks to help repatriate money (which he realized was a non-starter, partly because his own backers would be hurt too — note his refusal to release names of people with bank accounts in Switzerland and elsewhere). Then he tried that land act, but that backfired badly both politically and in public opinion and he had to withdraw it. So when the demonetization idea was floated (by a non-economist), he seized on it: it was bold, it was dramatic, it fit with his vision of himself — the one he had sold the country on — of a fearless doer and, best case scenario, it would provide him with a big win if at least a third or even a quarter of the notes didn’t come back.

      Trouble is, he didn’t think the last mile through, nor did he listen to those who had. And so he bombed, big time.

      The irony here is that each of the things he has done, if it had been thought through, *could* have helped. A revamped MNREGA that cut the middleman out would have had millions of poor people singing his praises. A well thought out national identity scheme could have helped weed out illegals, and put in place the base of a robust security infrastructure. A well-revised land act could have helped curb real estate as a repository of black money. A robust single-tax GST could have widened the tax net without harming the small businesses. In each case, the problem is not the idea, it is the execution — and that speaks to administrative incompetence, to a sheer lack of talent in the Cabinet he hand-picked.

      It is one thing to pick a team where you and you alone are the star, the downside of that is, your team won’t provide results because it doesn’t know how. Almost every government I can think of in India in recent times had this problem — ministers were chosen for political reasons and not for talent, and therefore ministries suffered. It is why I said back in 2014, and I still reiterate, that Modi’s best Cabinet would have been Modi himself as PM and External Affairs; Yashwant Sinha for Finance; Arun Shourie for Disinvestment; Subramanian Swamy for Industries; Arun Jaitley for Law; Sushma Swaraj for Home, to name just the major ministries. In that team, the three key portfolios — Finance, Disinvestment (to bring in more money and shed loss-making PSUs) and Industries would have been staffed by people who have already been ministers and knew how to make things work, plus who had competence in those areas. Instead, you pick a smooth-talking lawyer to run Finance and greenhorns to run the other two, with consequences that are obvious.

      This turned into a very long reply, so let’s talk of the larger political question, the one you raised at the start, for another day? Thanks for writing in, totally appreciate such thoughtful posts. (That by the way is a funny thing — back in the day when I first started blogging, I used to look at the number of comments first, and feel let down if it wasn’t in the hundreds (I was doing cricket then, so most times I had no reason to feel let down). It took me a long time to get to the point where I realized that a half dozen well-thought out responses helped my own thinking far more than a hundred knee-jerk comments. Again, thanks.

      • Prem, I thank you for this well thought out response. I learned a lot by reading the response. I did not know many things your wrote and I had not thought of many other things you mentioned here. … If ever one of us is in other’s city, I will buy you a beer. … I will be happy to talk to you about politics and macroeconomics — not subjects of my training …. A favor to ask: It will be a good idea to read you recall what Shruti Rajagopal taught you about macroeconomics on napkins at the irish bar.

  4. I think the analysis for or against have all been biased. All analysis is on the conclusion – HIT ya FAIL. Instead lets analyze relevant claims of success and failures. Lets peel the layers.For example –
    Claim 1(for): Cross border terror funding and reduced stone pelting – What do we know about this year from last on this? Lets analyze the impact of this and how it helped? Was it temporary. was it permanent?
    Claim 2(against): All black became white for 30% exchange – Lets gather evidence. Analyze it – who,what when where? how did the guy turn that 30% commission to white?

    • 1. — that is the timeline of Kashmir this year. Also, this HT report: makes the point that Eid this year was the bloodiest the Valley has known in a long time (this, with a PDP-BJP government in the state, and a BJP government in the Center). And here on the insurgency front is Chattisgarh this year: The trope that demonetization choked terror and insurgency has been thoroughly debunked, a simple search should give you tons of fact checks.

      2. This is actually simply explained. What happened — and for this, I have multiple sources including two different general managers of two different Bangalore banks; not GMs of a branch, but of the bank itself — is this: I (I AM SPEAKING HYPOTHETICALLY, DON’T EVEN THINK OF RAIDING ME, IT DEPT) set up a stall and converted currency, taking a commission between 20-30 percent. Once every few days, I take the currency I have and deposit it piecemeal, spreading it across 100s of accounts of poor people I know and can influence. None of these deposits are in crores — 100 accounts with 90k deposited in each of them works out to 90 lakh. And we are talking of 100s of thousands of such accounts. For instance, I stay in Ulsoor. There is a small market nearby — a long stretch of street with dozens of roadside vendors. There was a note exchange operation flourishing in the area during the demonetization days, and the money was going into the accounts of these small vendors of fruit and veg and fish and cigarettes and all that. What was interesting was, no one was even trying to hide this. The problem for the government is, such deposits, nationwide, involves crores of accounts. To investigate every single one will take far more manpower than exists, and many years. The IT dept, already swamped with bigger fish to fry, has neither the time nor inclination to do any of this, so what effectively has happened is not only existing black money got back into the system, demonetization provided another means of rapidly generating black money.

      None of this, by the way, is new — it has all been documented and reported.

    • Oops, sorry — about bias, I agree to a limited extent. But another way of looking at it is, the media’s job is not to look at the PR part of any exercise, it is to go to the ground and report what is happening there. As it turns out, in this instance, all that was happening was bad; a site that reported systematically over time therefore ended up producing a plethora of stories of things going wrong. And that cascade gives the impression that this is agenda journalism, someone looking for negative stories. Look at it this way — what positive story do you know that was not reported? If you can’t think of any, in fact if the government itself can’t come up with any that stands the test of fact, what does that tell you?

  5. I was one of the supporters on demonetization when it first came out. As an idea it still appeals to me. First red flag was the 2000 note though. And then began the series of red flags.

    After we have been through it all the thing that pisses me off the most is that eventually the bad guys won. Almost everyone managed to convert their black money to white. I personally know of people with crores of cash again. And in the business sector, things are totally back to normal.

    I think the government realised fairly quickly that they were looking at a failure. I think the estimate of 99% of the cash coming back is understated. I strongly believe that more cash came back than that was in the circulation. And jaan jalti hai saala when I see shit like charges being levied on wallet transactions and people talking about marginal increase of tax base.

    And the most disappointing thing since Nov 8 last year is the electoral victory that BJP got in UP. Its almost as if people dont care. I have still not managed to wrap my head around it.

    • Unlike you, I was against it on day one. Not because of Modi, but because the four stated intentions made absolutely no sense. Take terrorism: it takes extraordinary naivete to imagine that the temporary inconvenience would dent terrorism. What, they can’t stand in line like everyone else and convert money, while postponing planned mayhem by a week or so? Then there is counterfeiting — and if you have studied that even casually, you know that duplicating new notes is a matter of weeks (in this case, the first duplicates came within days of the new notes being released). Black money? The notion that people keep hundreds of crores under their pillows these days is risible — black money goes abroad, or into gold and real estate. Briefly, NONE of the stated objectives made sense. Meanwhile, the danger was equally obvious: anyone who has spent any time at all in a smaller city, or village, or even gone to the main market areas of metros, knows that most of our transactions are cash — because most of our daily transactions are too petty (half a kilo of tomatoes, quarter kilo potatoes…) to require digital payments, even if the petty vendors had the infrastructure, which they don’t. So basically, you were knocking the stuffing out of at least 50 per cent of the daily commerce of the country, and there is no way you can do that without creating huge chaos.

      My bank manager for one, various economists who have an inside track, for another, agree with you about the currency that has come back — the figures are fudged, or incomplete, is the consensus. Plus, there are indicators. The RBI still says it hasn’t finished counting; it does not say how much is left to count. A group of NRIs met Sushma Swaraj some three months ago to argue that the members of their association alone had over 7500 crore of currency, all legit, in their position and asking that the date be extended. ( . When the government talks of the money that didn’t come back, this is included too — but it is not black money, merely money that couldn’t be deposited. (And this is one NRI association; there are dozens of those). The RBI has also not talked of the money deposited in cooperative banks, which were initially left out of the ambit of returns. So yeah — like you, I am pissed because all that happened is black money became white money with official connivance.

      Actually, I spent time with my bank manager the day I went to deposit some currency in my position. I asked him about how it was playing out. He said tell me, what did you just do? I had filled in a deposit slip, passed the money over. “Okay, what did the teller do?” She counted the money with her machine, ticked my deposit slip, stamped it, gave me the receipt. “Okay, so at what point of this exercise did she check for fake currency? See the point is, given the lines, no one in any bank can look at each individual note. Also, there is no mechanism to tie the notes to the depositor. All of this will be sent to the RBI. The money will fill huge space. Who on earth can, or will, go through each individual note to weed out fakes? That will take manpower in the thousands and time measured in years. So, no, all that is happening is you are getting good money for fakes.” Makes sense.

      UP has been talked up as a victory for demonetization, but that is a correlation with exact causation. The election was too close to the demonetization. The numbers hadn’t begun to tell the story. So the rhetoric that this was a pro-poor measure, and the “temporary inconvenience” would be worth it, could still fly. (Incidentally, don’t forget that Goa happened before UP — and the BJP lost its mandate, so it wasn’t all one way). A year has elapsed now — fight Gujarat on demonetization as you did UP and see what happens. (Actually, if you look at the stump speeches of the BJP in Gujarat, everyone is carefull avoiding demonetization where, in UP, that was the big talking point).

      Thanks, though — you may not have meant it that way, but the fact is, while reading your comment, it struck me that I knew how I wanted to write my own demonetization piece. My problem was there was too much number crunching out there already; too many stories had been written about the effects in various sectors. Anything I wrote on those lines would be a repeat, it would be tedious. I was wondering what to do when I saw your post, and something in there struck a chord. You’ll see, when the piece comes out — I think it is scheduled for later today. Thanks again, and cheers

  6. I should have gone with my first intuition when the Mitron happened last November, which was who gives him the right to put 120cr people go through that inconvenience. Hell, if it were me, if a step involves even making all people of India go through something as trivial as a harmless mosquito bite, I would not let that happen.

    But then my friends, in various college whatsapp groups, even the AAPtards seem to welcome the move. They all said it’s small pains for the greater good. I was not convinced but kept quiet.

    However, it is now proven in the “liberal circles” that this was a failure, but now that it is done and dusted, why can’t we give Modi a chance when he says history will judge him differently on DeMo? The process is history, Modi has learnt his lesson and probably won’t do anything like it again. Especially when 2019 does not look like a given any more. I would be glad if anything down the line proves that it was indeed a good step.

    Now here is something strange: None of my near and dear ones seem to undergo any hardship. These are middle-middle class people in West Bengal and elsewhere and many of them Mamatadi supporter. It didn’t seem like anything stopped for them, didn’t look like they cancelled any purchases etc. (I am personally unaffected in Boston, with only 2000Rs lost that I can never recover).

    Here’s a funny story. One of my acquaintances here was going to India during that time and I was like how are you going to manage. She replied, “oh mere chachere bhai ka ek friend bank manager hai. Woh mujhe bola ki woh ghar aake mujhe cash deke jayega”. The amount was for around 50000. And this is not an isolated story. This bank manager as a friend was a common story in many conversations.

    • The bank manager as a friend is my story too. Not in the way you state here, but my manager *is* a friend and almost from day one, he was willing to talk to me about what was going on behind the scenes on various tropes: black money, fake currency, return of money, all of that. What I realised was how almost everyone on the inside of the banking system was sure, from day one, that this was a humongous disaster in the making. I am no economist, but the concept of wiping 86% of currency out of circulation in one shot seemed so batshit that on November 8, even as Modi was speaking, I posted on Twitter that Mohammad bin Tughlaq had gotten a bad name for much less. (And I got slammed for it).

      About the middle class facing no problems, of course they didn’t, not in their daily lives. I am an example, if you will. I use my debit card all the time, for everything from milk and groceries on up, so the only inconvenience was that on one day, I had to go to the bank to deposit the hard currency we keep around the house. But there is this: near our home, there is a large grocery store, part of a chain, where most of us shop. On the 13th, while I was buying some provisions, I bumped into folks I knew at a neighboring apartment complex, and they were talking of the “inconvenience” of their domestic help not being able to come to work on time because they were running around scrambling for provisions. This led to a thought. We ended up setting up a booth in the security cubicle of that apartment; we sat there with a book and had people — domestics, security staff, drivers, whoever — from the area apartment blocks come tell us what provisions they needed. We listed it all, totaled it up, then went to the store and placed the orders in bulk on our credit/debit cards. They delivered, we distributed. Small thing to do but it eased the lives of many dozens.

      About history, that is a commonly used trope, but in this case, I would submit it is irrelevant. In the first six months of demonetization, small and medium industries were hurt big time. Many — including entire sectors — shut shop; people lost livelihoods, became unemployed, the nature of an economy was upended, in many ways irrevocably. No one judges Tughlaq on whether he repeated his experiments with currency — they judge him on what happened when he did his batshit thing. Same difference, it is not whether Modi repeats the experiment.

      In passing, the fundamental problem with demonetization is that the government — okay, the very few in government who were part of the decision-making process — did not listen to their own experts, did not consult, did not take inputs. (Raghuram Rajan in his book talks of the conversations he had with the government, specifically about how he advised the PM and FM that the same results could be achieved without any of the attendant pain). Now look at GST — the exact same thing is repeating itself: decisions taken in isolation, experts not consulted, a sense of omnipotence driving the whole thing, with chaos as the result. So yeah, history did repeat.

      There seems to be a collective sigh of relief that at least Modi won’t demonetize again, but that is silly. No one even remotely imagines that it is possible to demonetize at the rate of once a year — the stress it will place on the banking and administrative systems is too humongous for even a Tughlaq to attempt it, so in thinking “At least he won’t do this again”, we are merely seeking silver linings.

  7. Achievements of Demonetization:
    1. About 100 people died
    2. About 1 week of PRODUCTIVITY lost for about 50 CRORE Indians
    3. Credibility of RBI lost
    4. 100% of black money converted to white
    5. About 1.5 to 2 lakh crores of organized loot/legalized plunder

    Things which Demonetization did NOT achieve:
    1. The ORIGINAL stated objectives namely
    a) Eradication of Black money
    b) Terror Funding
    c) Eliminate fake currency
    2. The NEW objectives invented along the way:
    a) Cashless economy
    b) Less Cash economy
    c) Digital India

    I will expand on the point 5 in achievements. Central government told to Supreme court that it expects about Rs. 5 lakh crore of BLACK money NOT to return due to demonetization. Subramanian Swamy told a news channel that people ARE converting the BLACK money at 30% exchange. 30% of Rs. 5 lakh crore is Rs. 1.5 lakh crore, which was taken as commission for converting the black money to white. Who are the beneficiaries? NOBODY in the media even DARED to ask.

    • I agree with your lists, Muthu. Actually, Arvind Kejriwal — who woulda thought? — said precisely this on day two of demonetisation, about it being organised loot, as did several others. Our problem is not that people are not saying things that matter; it is that we have gotten into the habit of shouting down inconvenient opinions, or ignoring what doesn’t suit us. Sadly, the loss is ours.

      • Prem, I have a question to you on this point “we have gotten into the habit of shouting down inconvenient opinions”. Isn’t this a responsibility of Opposition in a democracy? If opposition (read congress) is damn bad at it (though they are improving off late), it becomes the responsibility of people to figure out. Else everyone has to suffer, and learn it the hard way.

        I have many friends who shouted at me when I spoke negatively about Demonetization last year. Everybody (ALL educated people) believed what PM said – word for word, without using ANY part of their brain (even for a second). Now they are all keeping quiet AND asking me to move on!

        • It is the responsibility of the Congress, but the danger is in seeing it as the responsibility solely of the Congress. It is also the responsibility of every right-thinking person to oppose a wrong act of this or any government. The opposition parties, the media, the people who are the real affected parties — everyone needs to take a stand when things go wrong.

          As to your friends, that is typical of the believer. See, if I were to believe you are the smartest, wisest person in my universe and everything you do is for the best, what happens? At some point, it turns out you are not what I thought you were. But the catch is, how do I admit that? To do so is to admit I have been fooled — and which of us is man enough to stand up and say, he fooled me? That is the problem your friends have, and the reason you are asked to move on: because if you persist, you rub their noses in their own folly.

        • Also, ask your friends this: If a tragedy happens, if say someone they know well is killed, do they tell themselves to move on? “It happens”? No? This is a national tragedy that affected millions. What does “move on” mean? To perpetuate a cliche, if we don’t face up to and learn the lessons of recent history, we will perpetuate it. The least we can do is to be more open-minded when a government — state, central, right, left — announces something. Query the basic premises, ask questions, wait to jump on the bandwagon. We do that in the case of our workplace, why not the nation itself?

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