Welcome to my world - a platform for expressing myself

This is a place for me to blabber all that I feel, view or experience. I am going to put up some interesting stuff here and hope you find some value. All feedback is appreciated! More about me...

Some of the areas that would be covered :-

  • Informative - interesting facts and phenomenon
  • Controversial - views on political events
  • Resources - advise for preparaing for competitive exams

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

// // Leave a Comment

Who Cares but Still - A Year in Review 2017

The entire city is in holiday mood now and the preparations for celebrations are on in full swing. You could sense the presence of green and red donning most of the shopping malls and the familiar Christmas Tree is indicating the imminent coming of Dear Santa.

Well, the year is about to come to end and everyone in on top of their plans to complete the week and leave for a vacation. Yeah not everyone but I hope most of us have planned some time away from work. This is the time when most parts of the world, if not all, are generous in according vacations or leaves to employees. After all, it is the time to put to rest all the toils of the year going by, sit back, relax and freshen up for newer challenges. While emails are being flooded with warm wishes for the holiday season and leadership at office advising to take a good break - one line stuck me in one of those messages - this is also a good time to reflect on the year gone by, relish on your accomplishments and learn from mistakes. This may be getting a bit philosophical, but I decided, why not at least take up a part of it - reflect.

I am not sure of you, but I am definitely looking forward to a good break - especially after all this traveling that the last couple of months have seen. While I am snuggled in my quilt and sipping on the steamy coffee to avoid the chills of the season - come on who am I fooling when I am writing this from the 21st-floor office looking at an awesome view of the city of Abu Dhabi splashed with the first rains of the season - here is what comes to mind when I look back at the year, going by.

1. Welcoming the New Year in Nainital

Hills All Around - The Kumaon Region

New Beginnings is special and hence was this vacation. We decided to welcome the year 2017 in the beautiful valleys of Uttarakhand and took off to Nainital. The week-long vacation was all it was supposed to be - laid back, relaxed, luxurious and scenic. We spent the time enjoying the chills of the hills amidst the peaks and the valleys and grasped the nature to the best possible potential. The grand 2 bedroom accommodation overlooking the Naini Lake was just the start of the good things that this year offered to us. We had planned the time with minimal sightseeing and most the time was kept to lay back and take the moment slowly. The celebrations on the Mall Road - the primary arterial road of the city - were lively, musical and warm (even on that chilly night). Well, it was almost perfect until the D'day. The new year brought with it a hail fall - the first for us and it did turn the holidays into one of the memorable ones for us.

We did document the trip, as most of our others and in case you are wondering there isn't much to it - keep guessing - most of it was censured for privacy concerns :) For whatever that went through come read at - Nainital - The Lake District in Kumaon

2. Reviving Wedding Vows in Exotic North East of India

Right on the Way - Taking a Breat at 15K Feet

Well given the travel buffs that we are, most of our memories and events tend to include some bit of travel and so did this. An anniversary is a perfect opportunity to snuggle out the city and cherish the time spent together away from the world. We were surely not ready to miss this opportunity and spent the entire fortnight in one of the most exotic regions of the country - the North East. If you are inclined to say, what's so exotic about it, try attaining an altitude of 18000 feet above sea level, thrice in a week. On top of that, take snaps with Chinese Tourists when they are still in their country, touch and go with the clouds and exploring cultural intricacies at one of the oldest Buddhist Monastery. This part of the country is nothing short of a dreamland and definitely worth more than the time we spent there.

We brought in the day marking the completion of 2 years at a small village called Lachung - one that was scenic and peaceful - all that was to be heard were hymns from a monastery, flowing water of the river by the hotel and occasional creaking of an old wooden bridge. Did we revive our vows - not literally given both of us - okay mostly me - being the lazy beans that we just decided to carry forward the existing ones to the next year.

One paragraph doesn't do justice to the beauty that North East India is, and nor does even an article. Here is a link to the entire series we documented on this visit - Series of Posts on North East India

3. Birthday Celebrations - Maiden Visit to Goa

It was almost the mid of the year and it was a birthday - perfect time for sneaking out for yet another vacation of the year. We had already been to hills quite a lot this year until then and hence it was time to opt for beaches. This was special given both of us had not been to the top of the list destination of India until then - Goa. Yeah, Goa was where we spent the entire week with plenty of time to lazy around the beaches - there are definitely a plenty of them, visiting the Churches that showcase the cultural history of the city and then doing nothing for a lot of time. A rental car, camera, a small backpack and loads of food - this was our vacation gear on this trip. Heading out at the slight notice of our senses and immersing into curvy roads donned by thick greenery on sides was the kind of adventure this holiday provided. From the party scene of North Goa to the luxury of South - we experienced Goa, deeply, thoroughly and plentiful. At the end of which, we are still sure that it has so much left out waiting to be explored.

More about our visit is available here..... A Beach Paradise or much more - Goa : The Traveler's Delight

4. Stepping up professionally - Being a "Manager"

Well enough fun on the personal front and it was that time of the year that is like Shaadi Ka Laddo - while every employed professional dreads the "appraisal discussion" but is still waiting for it with bated breath. I had definitely put in quite a lot of work, had networked enough, made people heard about me and had everyone around me cheering but was still not sure of what that discussion would bring out for me. I walked into the room tense and anxious and walked out walking. While most such discussions leave you with a number to be happy or sad about, mine was a binary "True" - to the question if I had been promoted.

Yes, that meeting left me being a "Manager" - a milestone of sorts - one that was going to bring with it a lot of challenges and harder work ahead but it still left some sense of satisfaction - of being recognized for the work done and being appreciated for it.

5. The Middle East - A Land of Opportunities

The end of the year brought some amount of travel with it but this was not the usual one. It was not a vacation that I was heading to but for work. A client engagement needed me to be there (or here) in the region called "the Middle East" and I have been traveling on and off. I have already spent a couple of months in this country. Now whoever knows me would realize that all work is not what would describe me in a new country and so I did escape to some tourism and did gain some depth in the cultural and traditional heritage of the country, explore the iconic sites of the city and grasped an outlook of the region.

Well, that is not all. The year going by has definitely had one more memory left to cherish and that is still something I am keeping away from you. The year is still on and hence things are still up and so are the secrets. But in the meanwhile, wishing every one of you Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year 2019. Hope the holiday season provides you a much-needed break to spend time with family and friends and the new year brings with it hopes and prosperity. Enjoy !!!!

Read More

Thursday, December 14, 2017

// // Leave a Comment

Gujarat Elections - BJP What's The Point of Disasters?

As we entered into the election season in Gujarat, almost everyone was sure that BJP were the favorites. They were sure to win given such a strong support they had enjoyed for so long and the opposition was nowhere to be seen. The only other player in the state - Congress is any way seeing a doom day for a few years now and their existence was notional at best. And then, the state has given the country a Prime Minister - one who was their favorite for more than a decade.

However, soon enough doubts were cast and people started believing that Congress was catching up and soon would at least be able to create a dent in the final tally. Their "yuvraaj" was out in the field and for the first time seemingly taking charge. He was directly attacking the Prime Minister and was making fewer mistakes than what he has been making in the past. His party too was supporting him with best of the strategies they could bring to the table.

I still was - and to a certain extent still am - convinced that BJP would anyway take the state given their strongholds. However, the time I started believing that the party itself was nervous about its chances was when I saw the change in their campaign strategy. Some of the blunders that I believe is what I would talk about here and below are some of the questions that I would like to ask any big-wig from the party - I hope someone does!

Why change the narrative away from development?

Mr. Modi was riding on a development wave when he swept the country with votes and took the seat at the center. Masses believed in the dream he showed and most believed he would bring a positive change to the country. A foundational component of the dream was the fact that he had achieved it already in his home state and Gujarat was a model of development in itself. Now that he was the Prime Minister it was logical for everyone to believe that work done in state and the center would be the content of any poll strategy BJP comes up with. However, this was not the case to be !!

The Prime Minister himself and the entire party behind him focused solely on the other side - Congress and its soon to be President. They would talk about the wrongs done by the party which has already almost been decimated. They got what they deserved and no longer carry the burden to prove the charges wrong - there is an inherent "statute of limitation" to such things. This has simply led to the electorate considering what happened to all the work done in the state and the center. Who would talk about it?

Is Pakistan really involved in the State Elections?

The Prime Minister bringing in the enemy state from across the border was definitely a bummer for me. While we are used to seeing lows in elections and 'jumlas' taking up the rhetorics, however, alleging involvement of a foreign country was a first for me. While the impact may not be high for the moment, it has much wider implications and connotations. For starters, foreign policy is the sole domain of the Union Government and it is their responsibility to prevent any such interference well before it is thought about. If the PM was aware of such an interest, it should have been checked long ago. I am not sure of the thought process behind this attempt of fear psychosis, however, I am sure that this could actually have been avoided. Who are you trying to scare away?

Why blame the only person who gets the benefit of a doubt?

The entire BJP bandwagon jumped on including the former PM, Dr. Manmohan Singh, into the conspiracy of a cross-border conduit. But did the party and their leaders not recognize that he is the single person in the entire Congress party who enjoys the respect of masses including his critics. He is world renowned personality and a famed economist. During the worst phase of corruption charges, he personally was able to keep himself scath free. What was the need to bring him into the equation when he wasn't to be? Of course, the other party took the cue and made him the face of their response to this allegation and I for one would have turned away had I been voting.

Hopefully, someone would have thought through these before going ahead with these and had a better judgment than mine. It could very well be that they had captured an underlying nerve, but for a voter like me - young, educated, politically aware and responsive - these were definitely not expected from politically astute minds that Mr. Modi and Mr. Shah are. \

What do you think about these and do you consider these blunders? Or is it just part of a game? Pour out all your thoughts in the comments because that is the purpose of this portal - expressing yourself!
Read More

Monday, December 11, 2017

// // Leave a Comment

Elections in Gujarat - Both Sides on a Tight Rope

I am sure we are all aware that the election season is back in the country - yes I know that the "Big Elections" are still away for more than a year. However, the media glare for ongoing elections for the state assembly in Gujarat is no less than for a General Election. If reports are to be believed and analysis is to be heard, these elections would form the foundation of results we would hear in a year and a half from now. Well, that is the level of importance that these elections apparently have for our this country's political discourse and hence an article was inevitable from your humble writer's keyboard.

So are these elections that important?

I would trust the analysts and observers on this one. Gujarat is not just another state of the country - it is a first among equals. This is the state that saw our Prime Minister rise to echelons of the politics and acted as the training, learning, experimenting and founding bed for his career. An inexperienced and hesitant politician took the realms of the state decades ago and converted it to the most talked about land in the country. Gujarat is what the then prospective PM showed the nation in 2014 and promised to replicate what he and his critics called the "Gujarat Model of Development" across the country. Gujarat became the epicenter for both the supporters and opposers of Mr. Modi and each took out a different leaf from the revered model to put forward their case. So, yes the state has an important place in the politics of this country - at least for now - as it put our PM on the seat and a major upheaval within the state would have national connotations.

We talked about Modi becoming the PM in detail. Read more at - In Hindsight - NaMoMania : Mirage or Reality ?

But, history of PM in making is not the only reason why these elections are important. This is also the state which was deeply impacted by some of the actions that this government has taken over the last couple of years. Gujarat has traditionally been the land of business - the business acumen of native Gujaratis is commended world over and still, a lot of successful businesses across the globe can be tracked to having roots in this land. And, the two most publicized actions of the BJP (okay the NDA) government took shattered a lot of the local businesses - we are obviously talking about the Demonetization and the GST Implementation. One may argue that any honest businessman should not have been impacted by these but that would be a novice observation at best - if not misinformed. Businesses were definitely impacted and most are still bearing the burn and the government is well aware of this fact. I know we all have seen the BJP sweeping away the power in Uttar Pradesh and took it as the verdict for Demonetization, however, that was a different ball-game altogether. Gujarat may actually give a more aligned verdict.

Where is the ruling party in all this?

The Bhartiya Janta Party or the BJP has ruled the state for nearly two decades now and have even formed a government at center - gaining such a huge majority riding on their success at Gujarat to a large extent. If someone would have asked me a couple of years back - when Mr. Modi was still the CM - it looked like there was no other political player in the state and BJP did not have a competition for many many years to come. But things change and they did change for Gujarat. The leader that the state had for so many years was promoted by the country to lead from the forefront - Mr. Modi became the Prime Minister. However, what was left behind was a vacuum of leadership in the state and during the tenure of Modi, no other leader could emerge out of his shadows. A CM was appointed in the state as Narendra Modi bid farewell to the state and state tried to recover the loss of its leader. It was obviously presumed that the state would be run mostly as a Union Territory from the center and the CM would be another Governor of the state.

However, CM is there for a reason and so was shown to the state. Mr. Modi could not keep a tab on the day to day activities given his schedule and the state suffered from administration perspective to some extent. Local body elections displayed an under-current and the CM was changed mid-term as a course correction. Again the new CM did not have the same charisma as the void created and am not sure of how confident is the BJP leadership with results of that change in CM. A major community that traditionally supported BJP is anguished and a part of it is showing its strength by aligning with the other team. Having central leadership camped in the state with assembly elections is nothing new for India however, the extent of focus here is bewildering. Not only that, the political discourse - from the ruling regime - is confusing.

For BJP, this was their cover page state - a place which would be a show stopper during the national elections. This state was superior to any other land in India in terms of development and welfare. When Narendra Modi campaigned for the 2014 general elections he came out not as a leader of the opposition but as the incumbent leader talking about all the development he has achieved and would like to expand - rather than focusing on the other party that is the job of an opposition - and yes the masses approved of this argument when they elected Mr. Modi as the Prime Minister. I was assuming that this would be a similar case this time and the state and central leaders would leave no stone unturned to highlight their achievements and publicize their work. However, that was not the case to be - all I hear for now is what the other party could do to damage the state, how they are aligning with foreign powers to grab the state or how they are mudslinging on BJP's poster boy. This is not a sign of a confident regime who is sure to re-win the elections.

Where is the other side this time?

Generally, a question difficult to answer in the India Political scenario is - Who is the other party? However, this is not the case for these elections and Congress is the only other player on the scene. So, how credible are they as a threat to the existing regime. To me - they have the regime nervous at the least. Since the 2014 elections, Congress has been written off multiple times along with its prince - Mr. Gandhi - and mostly rightly so. The party kept losing elections after that and hence states from its power and was soon seen as just another player. Its political strength came down to a regional party at the most and likes of #AAP started considering themselves as the #2 party of the country. But again, things change and they changed.

These elections have seen Rahul Gandhi more active than ever before and the party trying with all its might to create a statement. They have been active in media - including social one, they are going back to religion - with temple visits, making coalitions and have strategized the best they could. Mr. Gandhi himself is making much lesser mistakes than earlier and has not made a blunder yet - of course, he has Mani Shankar Aiyar to do that. He is seen engaging with all parts of society and making frequent visits to temples and villages. He is showing his "youth" to best of his ability and has been able to make headlines for his statements rather than the misstatements. So in all, he and his party have had a good going so far. They can actually not afford a mistake this time. Mr. Gandhi is being promoted to the post of President of the party, Congress is shelved to a non-consideration in political discourse and BJP is gaining ground - so it is high time to consider is a now-or-never opportunity.

Who has the upper-hand?

Of course, BJP has a slight edge given nothing too-wrong has happened in the state for quite some time and the central government is doing all it can to balm the wounds of demonetization and GST. Backchannel parleys are being conducted to reduce the impact of "Patidar Side-kick" and appeasement is at its best for all quarters of the society. However, both the parties on a tightrope for now and a slight incident or news could turn the table in favor of Congress. They are definitely a major player in this elections and have managed to grab control to some extent. If nothing else, they are going to create a serious dent in the margin of power that BJP has grown used to enjoying in the state.

Meanwhile, if you are inclined, we visited Gujarat recently and have our experience documented on our travel blog - Land of Gandhi - Gujarat

What is your take on these elections? Have a favorite to pick? Do you agree with the article above or have some reservations? Feel free to comment and express yourself like I just did!!
Read More

Friday, November 17, 2017

// // 1 comment

Back are THOSE days !! Its Emergency in effect...

I wake up one morning from my comfy bed at the hotel, brew my morning coffee and switch on the TV to catch on what is latest from back home. It seems something pretty terrible is happening as the flash news alerts talk about some sort of emergency been declared, schools being closed, people advised to stay indoors and curbs on several rights – like the movement of vehicles, construction activities, and production – imposed. Well, anyone would be anxious to know what sort of emergency has gripped your home city which was all in order before the carefree sleep you went to about half a dozen hours ago. Apparently, it was the gradually becoming usual winter phenomena for the capital city of India – a nauseating cloud of dust and particles being stranded in lower levels of the atmosphere. If you hadn’t guessed by now, Smog is back to Delhi and so is an article on it on your humble blog! Yeah, this is a delayed response of sorts but I too realized the graveness only when I landed at our swanky Terminal 3 of the Indira Gandhi Airport amidst extremely low visibility and touchdown only thanks to those funky CATS – they say it is a technical term but I have come to know that these cats anyway have wonderful powers to make things happen.

Well this immediately reminded me of days about a year ago when one would cough more than breath, one would suffocate more than living and one would rub eyes more than blinking. Somewhere around Diwali last year we had a similar occurrence of Smog where the crackers were blamed as much as the other “critical” factors for the occurrence and mere mortals took the blame for celebrating festivals with its true traditional fervor. This year we had a ban on that part of celebrations and it indeed subdued itself to a large extent and yeah – the festival itself decided to advance its descent to ensure it clears itself of the blame. However what did not change was that cloud of smoke, Smog. It comes in its true worst form and haunts the residents of the city which prides itself in being the capital of this great country.
“We did talk about smog last year too and here is a quick reference if you are interested in what we said last year” - When Whether Kills - SMOGging Across Globe
What is so different today than yesterday? Nothing Really!
So how does pollution suddenly becomes an emergency when the world is talking about global warming and gradual move to the polluted atmosphere that we are headed to. It isn’t sudden that pollution became a reality for this city. It would more relate to livening of an old adage – “Seeing is believing”. While pollution may be an everyday phenomenon, gradually worsening ofcourse but what this is today is simply a visual presentation of that phenomenon. Because of climatic conditions coupled with some seasonal activities, the poisonous smoke fails to find its way to higher reaches of the atmosphere and find itself stranded at our eye-level to catch our attention – something similar to how the super marts try to put the products with most premium at eye level to catch customer’s attraction. Well it has succeeded and we are paying attention.

By the way, we did pay attention last year too, what if our attention span is too short.
We did try a lot of measures last year and announced many more and promised ourselves that we would do more on our part to ensure that this does not recur. I heard we were going to vacuum clean our roads and sprinkle waters on soil covered grounds. We definitely had a partial ban on vehicles through the (in)famous Odd-Even Scheme. I had a few friends driving the oil guzzlers worried about them being banned from roads. And yeah, no construction activity without proper provisions to prevent particles from getting into the atmosphere. And then some more.

To what extent did we succeed? The smog – more intense and poisonous than last year – is the one word answer to that question. Wait – did we forget to actually implement some of those things? No, we just thought they were no longer required as soon as we could not see that gaseous collection after the first rain and so our belief in the reality of pollution had a short life. And so we just thought let’s avoid some discomfort to everyone and leave it for when we see that again to believe it.

Who is to blame? Us or Politicians? Are politicians really different from us…

I for one am definitely surprised on why the Union Government is silent on this issue for so long. There are at least three states which have closed schools and published advisories. Masses obviously are bearing the brunt while crying foul every day. We already have once Chief Minister trying to meet his counterparts and being denied the opportunity – that is what my Twitter feed says even if it’s not true. My understanding so far of Indian system was that when a problem pans across state boundaries, it is the mandate of the central government to take the baton and bring everyone to table. It does not seem to be the case this time. I guess it isn’t needed as I heard my union minister in-charge of environment saying that “It does not actually kills you and only may impact your health” and that “we can't get it away by a Surgical Strike.” There we have it – a military term to the rescue of the poor minister.

It seems that surgical strike is what comes to the rescue of this government whenever a crisis erupts. But does this situation need a surgical strike. The term make me believe that it is related to a quick solution to rapidly developing scenario but this situation was known almost an year earlier if not more. I am not sure of what measures have been implemented since then to help prevent this and I refuse to believe that if something would have been done, the government failed to publicize it as part of a media blitz.

Well more locally, in our own Delhi, we were promised the world when it came for provisions for reducing pollution. The list was long and exhaustive of sorts and number of items which did not see the light of day is as long as the original list. Hopefully putting blame was not on the list else we have that one item ticked off. But still the government in that state seems to be making noise. What about the other two immediate administration around it – Haryana and Uttar Pradesh should have been somewhat if not equally concerned. Gurgaon is not immune to the phenomenon and what I have heard is Noida is worst affected. Given these two cities are a major revenue source for respective states, it is strange that those governments are least concerned. Is it only a party things since incidentally we have common power center for these states at the 7 RCR….ahh it is now 7LKM and the resident is seldom in his jurisdiction so probably the smoke did not reach him.

But why blame those at the helm when we on the ground do not seem to care itself. If you are on a drive today, look around yourself at any traffic signal. How many cars do you see with a single passenger? Isn’t your car one of those? Did it need this fuel guzzler to take you for this simple grocery trip or could you have opted for a lesser polluting option. Did you ever try taking a bag to the grocery rather than pushing the poor vendor to shell out a polybag on every visit? How many times did you have that air conditioner on just because it was there hanging on the wall? And did you not buy that large refrigerator just because it looked good? Yeah – “I pay that environment tax or cleanliness tax or what not to shrug off my duties” is not enough. Take onus to gain benefits – it’s your future generations which are at stake.

What do we do for now? Avoid breathing seems to work or so I have heard

All my screens are filled with advertisements for these air purifiers which have this wonderful property to sanitize homes. And then there are these masks priced as high as 4 figures. Are they effective? Maybe. Are they affordable? Not for most of us. Is it a marketing genius? For sure. There isn’t a very straightforward solution to this straight problem. For now, not breathing this air and avoiding exposure to it seems to be the best possible solution. If you can, avoid venturing out and stay indoors. If you are in a car, try using the re-circulation of air option rather than fresh external intake option. If you a lucky soul, take a break or work from outside the city – most managers in organizations would be accommodating if it doesn’t hamper your productivity. If you are allergic or prone to breathing issues, take precautions and consult your doctor.

Well, I know any or all of these would be pretty difficult to put to practice and you would just say I am a pseudo-intellectual elitist rambler blabbering my frustration out. Well to tell you the truth, you could so easily be called an Omniscient or “Antaryami” and to some or large extent you would be bang on. However, whatever be the ifs and buts, the bottom line is - We made our bed and we need to sleep in it – at least tonight. The solace lies in fact that for now it seems there is a tomorrow and we can probably arrange the bed some better for tomorrow.

Do you have quick fixes to save yourselves from this menace? How do you avoid this poisonous cloud? Do you agree with my rant? Feel free to share your views in comments and I assure you of a response.
Read More

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

// // Leave a Comment

Big Bucks De-Legalized 3: Life Since Demonetization

In the previous article, we talked about how the government prepared for bringing about the boldest monetary reform in the country - Demonetization. 86% of currency in circulation was overnight declared void and new notes were brought in. The government planned for every potential scenario they could imagine but were prepared to handle situations unforeseen. Did they succeed in their endeavor or did it simply mean more pain for masses without apparent gains? Let's find out in this article.
Read the previous article here - Big Bucks De-Legalized 2: D-Day of Demonetization - Nov 8
How has life been since the announcement?

Reactions to the announcement were quick enough too. While the entire political class was confused on how to react to this unexpected move and could at best warn of cautious optimism, there were many who were a bit agiler and novel. People like me line in front of the ATMs to cash in something to have them going for the time being and they could wait for a week or two before worrying about the countable bills they had on their chest to be deposited in a bank account. However, one knows that there are not only people like me but also those whose chests were larger than our houses. There were people who earned in sacks and stored in sacks until they spent in sacks. The announcement definitely had them worried and so they had their ingenuity help them out in this moment of grave concern. They started resorting to any tactic they could. Since the banks were already closed and most other avenues of cash transactions had shut their business by then they resorted to unthought-of means. Such people jostled to find a jeweler or real estate agent ready to accept the cash payments and hoarded their place in kind. They were ready to pay any premium just to get rid of those bills they never accounted for. Jewelers had a field day selling out their stocks in a matter of hours and taking money home. Their problems were to start later but they enjoyed the moment. Then there were those who tried leveraging the loopholes - there was a guy who took six waitlisted tickets for the first class AC compartment in a train on the longest route in the country. All he wanted was to cancel them a couple of days later and get back his money in new currency. The government realized how people were trying to play the system and took steps to plug the holes, case by case.

Well, it was a start of what was going to be a long story. This was one hell of an announcement with the potential to throw the country into haywire and apprehensions quickly surfaced in following days. Lines kept growing length rather than shortening and people began panicking. No one knew how this would turn up and everyone wanted every bill they had to be deposited in the banks so that they do not loose in the process. While there was hurry to deposit, there was also clamoring for cash. Everyone needed money for their daily essentials - people were left without food, milk, and groceries. The urbane class resorted to shopping malls and online services which accepted digital payments but what about the privileged lot? They had nowhere to go other than to beg for credit from the local shopkeepers they knew. It worked as India still is a sociable society to some extent but for how long. The shopkeepers themselves needed the money to buy the stuff they sold so it was a chaos at best.

Things became murkier as the month changed and December arrived. Most of the start-of-month payments are made in cash - the maid, milkman, newspaper guy, car cleaner and what not. So the demand for cash just escalated but the supply was still not up to the mark. I spent a couple of hours twice in the first week and managed to get hold for about 8k which was just about enough to manage the payments. But then these are not the only requirements. I had a visit planned to hills with wifey during the holidays and I had another trip planned to Mumbai. I needed cash for each of those visits and this meant a couple of more rounds to the bank. I did manage to get something each time but there were those who returned empty handed.

Well, things were indeed difficult and people were angry with all the pain. But guess what - the sentiment besieged all logic. Everyone still supported the decision. People hoped against all hope that the Prime Minister did take a bold decision to unearth all the stashed cash - concreted in walls, sewed in mattresses and beneath the tiled floors. Everyone I met - during my trips, during the waits in lines outside banks and during office discussions - believed that this would at least act as a warning shot. This guy at the helm was unpredictable and ready to take quo shattering decisions and this was definitely appealing to the masses on whole. Thus they drank the poison happily hoping that their coming generations would have better on offer.

Why was this necessitated?

Now, this is something that is there over the top of everyone's mind who is not aware of India or how our economy runs. Even for those who are in the system, they have a vague illusion of all that this was suppose to achieve. Below are what could be called broad contours of the goal that PM must have had as he was deciding on this.

In a single masterstroke, the government has attempted to tackle all three malice currently plaguing the economy—a parallel unaccounted economy or black money as known popularly, counterfeit currency in circulation and terror financing. This step is supposed to provide the Indian Economy with a kind of "reset" opportunity with most of the currency in circulation being renewed. Whatever cash there is in the economy would for at least once see the face of a bank teller and would go through a series of scrutiny.

Unaccounted cash fuels a huge parallel economy in India. That parallel economy runs on the 6% unaccounted wealth held in the form of unaccounted cash. If this unaccounted cash comes back into the system it does become accounted cash and will no longer be able to fuel the parallel economy. No one in his right mind would withdraw accounted currency and use it as unaccounted cash. Therefore a large part of the parallel economy will be forced to go mainstream. The only challenge remaining for the govt. would be to curtail the generation of unaccounted cash so that the cycle does not start again. The unaccounted wealth held in the form of real estate and gold will have to be sold against accounted cash if there isn't any unaccounted cash available to be paid. Therefore this one stroke of demonetization can easily curb all unaccounted wealth and bring it into the accounted domain. It is not rocket science to understand that counterfeit currency is generally circulated in highest denomination notes to impact most. So, by demonetizing the highest currency notes the government aimed to most of the fake currency out of circulation in one stroke. Further, one can also deduce that a lot of terror financing occurs either in counterfeit currency or cash in higher denominations. The funds to terrorists are bound to be a collateral damage through this process.

While the usual benefits are inherent, there were additional positives which this step was supposed to yield. One, it will lead to huge amounts of money deposited in bank accounts which had been lying out of banking system and will now come to the circulation. This, in turn, will enhance the liquidity position of the banks, which can be utilized further for lending purposes. Further, once the funds stored unaccounted come to mainstream, they would come under the tax-bracket and hence tax collections would automatically increase. Many also believe that this would lead to moderation in real estate prices which are sort-of at an artificially elevated level. One would also hope that there would, at least temporarily, be a halt to corruption to some extent.

Why was it so messy?

Many would feel that it shouldn/t be such a major issue that notes are being exchanged. There are some notes that people have which would be renewed. All they had to do was visit a bank, deposit what they had and take the new notes. However, no one who knew the Indian economy ever imagined it to be a smooth ride. Government and RBI had made great arrangements and were yet ready to proactively respond to issues that would come up eventually. As expected the entire process was messy and mucky and created chaos among the masses.

With the step, the country had scrapped money worth 15.4 trillion rupees ( about $220 billion). Now what was staggering was that this amount was equal to about 86 percent of the cash in Asia's third-largest
economy. On top of this, India is primarily a cash-driven society. Most transactions happen in cash and even bigger merchants favor hard cash to digital means. It is estimated that about 90 percent of transactions in India occur in cash. What exaggerated the pain was the psychology of how the masses reacted to the step. To start with there was a panic among the risk averse population of the country. No one knew how the things would turn up and hence everyone lined at banks to have their money deposited. The banks were not ready for such a step and hence did not have the operation capacity to handle the rush. A number of tellers were a bottleneck along with the currency in supply from the RBI. Further, frequent change in rules did not help the situation and simply contributed to anxiety.

What does RBI do with the defunct bills?

There is a well-established system at RBI for disposing of the defunct bill. RBI regularly disposes of mutilated and soiled notes after they are taken out of the circulation. However, the magnitude of the disposal this time was unprecedented. The demonetization exercise sucked a huge amount of currency notes out of circulation. As the notes started coming in after the demonetization announcement RBI made special provisions for disposal of notes this time.

The Reserve Bank of India will now shred and pulp the huge mountain of defunct currency for recycling. Banks will be asked to collate all their old notes in neat stacks and bundle them carefully before sending them to the designated RBI branch. The notes are reconciled with the accounting records to verify accuracy in documentation before proceeding further. Most RBI branches have a shredding center attached to them where these bundles are turned into heaps of short strips of currency paper. The shredded strips are then recycled into pulp under close supervision to ensure the irreversible conversion from currency to the pulp is achieved and there is no chance of misusing the old bills. The pulp can further be used for multiple purposes - office stationary, briquettes (for heating or bonfire fuel) or other places where a hard paper is needed. However, this system has only been established recently as awareness about environment gained focus. Earlier, until 2001 RBI used to incarcerate the old notes.

In preparation of large scale disposal needs post demonetization, RBI shortlisted a plywood company in Kerala's Kannur for a pilot project. The company was provided with a sample of a few gunny bags of shredded 500 and 1,000 rupee notes for pulping. After the pilot was successful, the company has now signed a contract with the RBI to process 40 tons of shredded notes at Rs. 250 per ton. The
shredded notes will be tossed with fine wood chips and then passed through a heavy press. The briquettes will be largely sold for industrial use via tenders.

Where are we today - what did the mammoth exercise achieve?

Today, after about 3 months after the announcement, re-monetization has largely been achieved and lines in front of banks have reduced. Normalcy is still some distance away, but the chaos has mostly been sorted. The country may soon forget the pain it went through in some time however, it isn't business as usual for many through this process. However, once the dust has settled, it is time to ask if something has been achieved in all this madness.

The "reset" aimed at with the step is achieved to some extent. However, the implementation wasn't perfect. The black market economy was somehow able to exchange their currency through "unofficial channels". The leakages would still be investigated at a later point of time but largely the belief is that the banking system malfunctioned at some stages. Of course, the black money market had to pause for some time, they have recovered to some extent. The extent of the market would have reduced but the elimination aimed has not actually been achieved. Now how this turns out would depend on follow-on steps that the government brings out.

Next, the aim of eliminating counterfeit currency was obviously achieved as the currency itself is changed. However, the consideration should be how long would this last. It is being said that the new currency would be difficult to imitate but it is the only time that will tell a real story. The counterfeit currency market has time and again proved its capability of minting currencies throughout the world. The only way to prevent it is through continuous enforcement and crackdown on those spreading the menace of fake notes.

The immediate benefit that was achieved was peace in Kashmir. Until the announcement, the state was boiling and violence was rampant. As soon as the notes were made defunct, the violence stopped overnight. the funding to terror groups has dried to some extent and this has definitely borne fruits. Another benefit achieved is acceptance of digital modes of payment. When the cash was difficult to put hands on, people had to resort to using of alternate means and PayTM became a household name.

So true benefits would only depend on what happens from now. The black money market would only try to attempt in advancing its expanse. Regeneration of unaccounted wealth in the form of cash can be henceforth curbed by the government with well-targeted steps. Further, if unaccounted cash comes back as accounted cash through various channels, the government needs to take steps to check its credentials and tax it heavily. A curb on corruption coupled with the use of plastic in lieu of cash will help curb regeneration of unaccounted cash. So demonetization will have its benefits provided future regeneration of cash is curbed. Does the govt. have the will and wherewithal to take an appropriate step? If yes, then demonetization will work wonders, if no then it will not only have proved unnecessary but also totally disastrous.
Read More