Saturday, November 12, 2016

Hit the panic button NOW

8-Nov-2016: I was feeding my daughter her dinner during one of those No-TV-while-eating routines when all of a sudden there were 8-9 non-stop whatsapp pings on my mobile. Scared to death of what might have happened, I hastily unlocked it and opened the app to see so many messages calling out Banned, 500/1000, Modi, News Conference. My non-political and useless in economics mind just could not understand anything. Then I calmed down. Started opening each of the messages, while my daughter literally sat in front of me with her mouth open for next bite (which is a rare site)
I give her the next bite and start reading those messages. PM Modi has banned current 500 and 1000 rupee notes from next day, i.e. 12:00 AM 9-Nov-2016. WHAT??!!! WHY??!! and then I was like - must be some fake news. People forward so many things without knowing, I thought. One of the hand typed messages from one of the most sensible relatives of mine said Press Conference going on Live where these things are being announced.

Since it was my decision that we are not going to turn on the TV while Navyaa is eating her meal, I CANNOT turn on the TV. But who needs TV when you have Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp? From 8:00 PM on 8th Nov till 12:00 PM on 9th Nov, I get almost close to 500 pings on whatsapp, FB wall is full of memes and jokes about obsolete currency notes and fierce war of words is on full swing on twitter. Modi announcement and Trump winning election - deadly combination to generate new jokes !!

Mr. Modi might have just initiated the Golden Announcement and people started pulling on their pyjamas and broken slippers, grabbing their wallets and started running to Petrol Pumps, ATMS, super stores to just do away with those notes. All of a sudden all that we wanted was Zero 500 and 1000 rupee notes and ALL 100 or lesser denomination rupee notes. I mean, c'mon, listen to him first. What are the arrangements made, what are the plans laid, why this is being done... He did not say that whoever has 500 and 1000 rupee notes, burn them coz you have lost that much money. You are just expected to replace those notes from the banks and post offices in upcoming few days. Next 1-2 days banks and ATMs will be closed.

WHAT?? CLOSED?? I AM DEAD... Of course not. They were closed to replenish the stock of the new currency. To modify the money vending slot of ALL the ATMs across India (if anyone has an idea how many ATM machines do we have in our country). To make arrangements of scrutiny which would be done on bigger amounts of cash. 

Petrol was not getting evaporated from Mother Earth. Yes, we are careless about using it but it will not vanish because of this announcement. And how many 100 Rupee notes will those petrol pump guys will have. They just can't replace all the 500/1000 rupee notes for you. 

Next day by afternoon some better sense prevailed. I got some few sensible messages (forwarded only) to not panic and let those people get the money from ATMs and Banks first who are in DIRE need. But I, ME, MYSELF is always in DIRE need. Some people posted angry messages of why so many people are thronging the banks and ATMs and Petrol Pumps to get rid of the old currency.

There is a point. We, Indians, are brought up with a mindset. 'Beta, close the tap, warna paani khatam ho jayega aur pata nahi kab aayega'. Should we not say, 'Beta, close the tap. You should not waste the water if you don't need it'. 'Switch off the fan and light. We are getting too much of electricity bill'. Should we not say, 'Switch off the fan and light when not in use. We should not waste electricity'. That's how we have grown. We are used to getting scared and live in panic. We are made to react to a situation only using a panic button, not made to understand. 

I am not debating on whether this was an intelligent move or not, what was the actual underlying motive of this move, will it actually achieve what it is meant to achieve. I was never good at economics or understanding the politics. I have asked this question on FB and many of my friends have tried to explain it to me, shared some great articles, have debated etc etc.

But all I want to say is, seriously, don't create panic situation - and this is a request to the educated class who can use plastic money. Unless you have a medical emergency or a wedding to take care of, let the people who live on daily wages get their currencies exchanged. They earn money during the day, use it in the evening to get the food for night. They don't use credit cards, many of them don't even have debit cards or accounts. Be patient with bankers. They themselves are over burdened and doing the hard work for you and me. If they want to take a break of 10 minutes, let them take. If they become slow in counting your notes, understand that they are tired. If they are asking for many documents, it's a government mandate which they are following (and that mandate has a reason behind it). We can still buy grocery online, pay for our lavish dinners using cards, book movies on our phones.

No one is going to undo this decision and everyone is going to get the new currency. For once don't be fanatic about taking a selfie with 2000/- note or posting it on FB that you are the Proud Owner of that note. YOU are definitely NOT the first one to touch that currency note. So, what's the big deal?!! You want to show it off to your future generations? Take a picture later on and get it framed for future. Till then, calm yourself down and wait for couple of days.