Personal pain, national gain
Saturday, 12th November 2016
By now, either our cash woes would have abated a little or we would have got used to them. There is no doubt that ordinary, honest citizens, small businesses, agriculturists, etc have been hit hard by the Midnight Modi Missile launched without warning. Rs 500 notes, if not Rs 1000 ones, are the most common and convenient legal tender across the economic divide. So parting with them in a huff without adequate back up or access to lesser denominations is most distressing. The pinch and pain are quite plain.
Should a, er, ‘the’ good part of the nation, which leads an ATM to mouth life, suffer for the crimes of the bad ones? That’s a Rs 100 note question that defies answer. We can only fall back on the PM for some clarity. His candid speech - I listened to the angrezi version delivered in chaste Hinglish -- was assuring and did assuage our apps, meaning, apprehensions a bit. He did not mince words in saying that the honest people would be put to ‘temporary’ (read terrible) hardship and even took their consent for ‘sacrifice’ for granted.
A crumb of comfort comes from the confidence that Modi himself may not have a collection of those cursed currency, though the same cannot be said of some of his own colleagues, compatriots and of course, his cherished enemies in the opposition. So, if Modi can’t do this, nobody can. But all his honourable intent risks being undermined by gross official miscalculation & shoddy handling of the cash crunch.
Our physical misery is also aggravated by other legitimate angsts. Simpletons sans tons of notes, but just a purseful, went scurrying out, stalking streets and knocking on shops like thieves, to make nocturnal deals with unsuspecting parties of the other part, in a bid to be rid of the suddenly soiled stuff. In hindsight, we must admit we were shaken and shamed by these acts of panic; a pang of anger did rise up against the Government for making good people feel guilty about their own money. If not skeletons, many bones tumbled out of family cupboards and tins too. That night and the dawn after, ours felt like a country of criminals.
And to be unwittingly equated to real robbers was even more mortifying. Now, there are those who held hard-earned tax paid money in 500s and 1000s. There are also the ones who had hard-earned albeit stacks of black, which was illegal but not immoral, and can be legitimised by owning up and paying up. But the worst are the privileged politicos whose stashes of cash were not just illegal but ill-gotten and immoral. Alas, Modi’s carpet bombing, or rather, carpet bagging, swept everyone summarily off their feet, without distinction! And in that lies a major credibility hole.
Most of us are open sellers of goods or services produced or delivered by us. In any case, we are not the ones who sold public assets like spectrum or coal blocks on the sly! We cannot be bundled and made bedfellows of the sordid, spoiled, scandalous scammers who actually stole both our notes and votes. Okay, this latest attack on corruption is a ‘minor’ blow to the common man: but this should have been preceded by big blows to political moneybags across parties and regions, all of whom had their wrongful riches flashing like neon signs all along. Much of that loot may have scooted the land and much may be invested in, well, land, but still, sacks and suitcases are aplenty. No war on corruption can carry credence without targetting the fountainhead, namely, politicos.
For instance, forget Swiss banks, 100 day targets, Letters Rogatories, etc that none understands. Just a visit without visa by IT sleuths to the very Indian TN would have yielded in fifteen days flat enough black gold to fill the fiscal deficit and even leave a hefty surplus for lending to impoverished America whose financial woes Trump trumpeted to emerge triumphant. Here in this State corruption is so rational that even Councillors carry cash in car boots, Ministers and MLAs have hi-tech counting machines that the RBI can actually borrow and estates, hills etc are made of high denomination bills, not hard rock or sand. Just this past election in TN, the cash haul by EC was an all-time, all-India record with just one seizure yielding around Rs 575 crs (and still unexplained). TN’s own J & K problem, if you get the drift, demands a special, strong surgical strike. Instead, the IT dept chooses to raid Nayantara!
Oh, this impotent middle-class rage has made me rile for a while. Of course, I am happy because a decisive, now-or-never battle with the black buck was long overdue. Happy that baneful barons might become barren overnight; happy that many politicos are staring down a bottomless black hole; happy that counterfeiters, for now, have been felled in an economic encounter; happy that hawala operators could go diwaal; happy that terrorists funding may be found wanting for quite some time to come; happy that a clear time-wall has been erected in the present to distinguish past and future money: and finally happy that, with our fateful, fatal parallel economy under check, our real economy can aspire to become one without a parallel.
The enforced ‘sacrifice’ is turning out to be an enduring torture. We only wish all our troubles are worth it. By the way, why not offer some handsome reliefs in personal IT that can come as a soothing balm?
About ColumnistA chartered accountant and a cost accountant by qualification and a person of friendly disposition but someone who values his and others privacy, T R Jawahar was not cut out for journalism. But how Jawahar has ended up as one of the most prominent journalists in Chennai and the creator of some important big news brands at such a young age is the stuff of destiny and the dint of hard work.
Born to that doyen of journalism and a legend in these parts, T R Ramaswamy, well known by the affectionate acronym TRR, Jawahar no doubted has inherited his analytical and writing skills from that great man. Apart from this, the father and son duo share another important quality that define their entire world-view, which is humanism. A warm empathy for all beings in the world is the core of their beings.
After the passing away of TRR in the late 80s, T R Jawahar took over the helm of the Chennai’s most popular English eveninger, News Today, and seen it grow through both good and bad times. Through the unceasing publication of News Today, Jawahar is continuing the legacy of his father who founded the paper as a social commitment as well as an entrepreneurial venture.
Jawahar further perpetuated the journalistic memory of his father by founding the popular Tamil eveninger Maalai Sudar. The two papers have carved a unique niche for themselves through an adroit mix of news and views, which help the readers to retain their Indian cultural identity.
Apart from this, the biggest and the most path-breaking journalistic venture from Jawahar is Talk Media, that publication stable that has now become the talking point in the city with a slew of neighbourhood weeklies covering the length and breadth of Chennai. His Point Blank column in the Talk Media is hugely popular for its most forthright views conveyed in cheeky and witty manner.
To discuss Jawahar just in journalistic terms would, however, amount to doing a huge disservice to his rounded personality. Endowed with a sunny sense of humour, Jawahar is a connoisseur of movies both in Tamil and English. He is a virtual treasure house of knowledge on Tamil film music and Tamil poetry. He is a history buff and a keen reader of English and Tamil works, which is counter-pointed by his fetish for modern gadgets. A willing traveller, he has brought to bear those varied experiences in his trips in India and abroad on his writings.
Despite his professional achievements and his focussed administration of a company which employs over 500 people, Jawahar remains essentially a family man, a caring husband and a doting father. He derives his strength from his wife and daughter, and his home and office forever remain his temples.