The social impact of Demonitisation – towards a more equal society

I don’t usually write on current affairs but seeing as this current hot topic in India holds the key for great transformation of the society and ultimately human lives, I thought it relevant to share some of my thoughts on it on this blog.

For those who don’t know what ‘demonitisation’ I am referring to, it is the move by the Indian government, effective 8 November, that the highest denomination currency notes in the country essentially cease to be legal tender. The move has been aimed at curbing corruption and terrorism that were fuelled by ‘black’ money (i.e. untaxed money) stashed away in people’s houses and by the use of counterfeit/fake notes, respectively.

Much has been written, said and debated about the economic effects of this demonitisation. For instance: it will reduce corruption and thereby make India a better place to invest and do business in; it will boost government coffers as more people come under the tax net and the banking system and the government can then finally get on to building proper infrastructure; it will help banks shore up their balance sheets given the healthy injection of deposits; it will bring down irrationally high real estate prices and make housing affordable. Aside from these economic effects, demonitisation will also facilitate political reform given as corruption has been a long-standing malaise in Indian politics.

However, to my mind, something even more significant than the aforementioned economic and political benefits is in the offing. It is the social reforms that are bound to follow at the heels of this endeavour. And it’s about time.

One of the things India has been most famous for in recent times is its weddings. They have become the stuff of urban legends – magnificent affairs carrying on for several days, each day bursting with fanfare at some sufficiently exotic and plush location where an endless supply of food and alcohol must be guaranteed. Then there are the expensive gifts exchanged between families – not the traditional gifts of a few pieces of clothing, jewellery and utensils, but BMWs and designer wear going into several lakhs and even crores of rupees.

Is it a shame for this kind of embarrassing display of wealth to come to an end? Is it a shame, as reported by some national news agencies that wedding card makers are despondent because instead of ordering 500 wedding cards, people are ordering a more modest number of 50 or that there is sadly no demand anymore for garlands made of 500 rupee notes that apparently were quite a favourite of some people (perhaps as a ribbon to tie across their BMWs, who knows)? This is a country where people still fear having a girl child because of the expense involved in marriages. And this trend of decadent wedding ceremonies was only making things worse.

It is high time, we as Indians come down to earth and break out from the whirlpool of materialism we have been sucked into. We had become a country that seemed to miss the satire in Orwell’s famous words “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” –  instead, we took it quite to heart. The level of desensitisation to the poverty and suffering around us is astounding. It is this idea of some being more deserving than others that leads people to spend lavishly on organising grand buffets for the oddest occasion when millions in the country are not eating properly. The poor in our country have also largely just accepted their lot. They mind their own place, showing deference to their richer fellow citizens just because they happened to be born in a poor household. It is as if they are a different species of people, not equal citizens and human beings.

I’m glad for demonitisation’s potential to bring about the much needed social reform in our society and pave the way for a more equal society and eventually, world. Those whose lifestyles and wealth have been hard hit, are no doubt in shock and tears but they should move on and take it as a lesson in trying to be less equal than others.

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  1. I know little about India however it sounds an appalling situation. On the UK there is a similar situation regarding weddings, simple days celebrating a couple becoming one are being lost to shows of ‘wealth’ unfortunately many of the wedding gs are between people who do not have the money to do so and are driving themselves into massive debt.

    1. Yes, it had reached pretty crazy proportions here. Hopefully people will come back to their senses and down to earth after this move by the government. Seems like a worldwide trend though followed by people who just want some nice Facebook photos at the end of the day..

  2. Pingback: Tweeting our way to reform – Living-Wise Project

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