“(W)hereas religion asks us to believe in something, money asks us to believe that other people believe in something.” Yuval Noah Harari says that in his book Sapiens, which I have been quoting extensively of late. The emphasis belongs to the original.
Religion asks us to believe in a god or many gods. It may ask us to believe in a lot more things such as heaven and hell, or that a bath in a particular river will wash away all our sins, or that you can’t be part of the community unless you part with your foreskin, and so on. Money demands a much simpler faith from us: that other people have faith in its value.
Without that faith, money is as useless as the waste paper in your dustbin. Remember what Prime Minister Modi said to the nation on Nov 8? “From midnight today, all the five hundred and one thousand rupee notes with you will be worthless paper.” Worthless paper, that’s what one speech from one particular individual made out of some twenty lakh crore rupees in India. 86% of the currency in a country which is as large as a continent became worthless paper overnight.
One of the many implications is that the currency notes we handle have no intrinsic value at all. Their worth lies in the faith we have in them.
PM Modi is apparently fighting black money (and terrorism as well) though the fight seems to be futile since all the “worthless” currency is finding its way back to banks. Moreover, the new currency notes make it much easier for black money to flourish. On the one hand, it takes much less space to stash away these new notes while, on the other hand, they are easier to print and hence to fake. Of course, in all probability these are temporary notes to be declared invalid in another Prime Ministerial midnight tryst with destiny.
One simple truth is that the world can’t go on without money. Another simple truth is that money is a more universal deity than the gods of all religions put together.
|Imagine this child getting paid in digital currency|
in cashless India
It is that universal deity, without which nobody can survive in today’s world, that the Prime Minister knocked out of people’s hands. Ordinary people, that is. The people living in the rural areas, in the remote mountains, in the dark alleys. The people who don’t have any access to digital technology and its wonders.
There’s no sign of this problem being solved in the near future since the government won’t be able to make sufficient currency notes available. Even the limited bundles of notes being printed end up in bulk at the doorsteps of corrupt traders and politicians. Even the Prime Minister’s own partymen are getting caught with the new note bundles.
Eradication of corruption is a utopian dream. It’s impossible that a shrewd politician like Narendra Modi didn’t know that. The truth may be that he wanted to punish a few people who belonged to opposition parties and were keeping crores of rupees of black money in the secret niches of their homes. That’s fine. It’s good politics too. Hitting the enemy where it hurts the most is a Chankya tantra and Mr Modi is an expert at it. What more can you steal from your enemy than his universal deity, the only universal deity?
What matters more, however, is that it is the ordinary people from the remote villages who really suffer because of the demonetisation. The farmers, the daily wage workers, the petty traders, and many similar others are left high and dry being denied access to the only god that really matters in the survival game: money.