Was the demonetisation a success or failure? Various government claims and the subsequent lacklustre results leave no doubt that the demonetisation has resulted in no significant utility to the nation and caused considerable damage.
Initial news of massive raids. Political opponents targeted. News of currency seized from various people. Widespread understanding among critics and supporters alike that the objective was to strangle cash flows (legal or otherwise) of political opponents during the upcoming election campaign in Uttar Pradesh.
Widely criticized through various versions of "amputating a leg to lose weight" or "bombing a city to kill criminals in it", this was an irrational goal to begin with, to go through an exercise of this magnitude, expense and cost to economy to flush out a relatively minor number of notes that would at best lose value they didn't have to begin with.
The new notes would have special security features to prevent counterfeiting
Initial reports in media suggested that the new notes would have special features that prevented counterfeiting them. At the very least, having to imitiate a new design would slow the counterfeiters down and reduce the amount of fake currency in circulation.
Various reports in a pliant news media even took claims of special GPS chips embedded in notes and discussed them seriously, creating a perception among the masses that the new notes would be extraordinarily resistant to misuse or imitation.
Tax Collection would increase
Almost 25% increase in tax collection has been unquestioningly gushed over by a pliant media. This increase in tax collection has been attributed to demonetisation.
Having cash in itself is not illegal, unless it is established that the cash would not be accounted for while paying taxes. Seizing it without evidence of wrongdoing probably is, but the government legally created impunity for tax officials, who are no longer required to explain their actions to anyone..
The relentless crowds and high stress environment at banks did not allow for adequate examination of notes deposited and the overall understanding is that a large number of fake notes got deposited and converted into real money in accounts or converted to new currency - in effect robbing the country far worse than them being in circulation.
The new notes had no special features that prevented counterfeiting
The new notes are of poor quality and apparently easier to counterfeit. Various leaders and affiliates of the ruling party have been caught with counterfeited notes and the equipment to make more. The trust in the notes is very low and "even the real notes look fake". Hurried printing has resulted in real notes not having all features they should have.
Among early news of counterfeiting included school children who had photocopied a Rs.2000 note and used it to dupe a sweets shop owner when they purchased treats using it.
There has been no change
Tax collection has been increasing year on year for a long time now, and if you look at the trend over the years, this year's increase in collection fits the curve.
82% of the money demonetised was rapidly returned to the banks about a fortnight before the last date to deposit demonetised notes, and the crowds continued unabated way after the RBI stopped updating figures on money returned. It has been over 7 months now and they still have not given out the final figures related with demonetisation, .
RBI would transfer profits to the government
RBI transferred Rs 30,659 crore as surplus to govt. This is lower than the Rs 65,876 crore last year - less than even half the amount. The budget has assumed Rs 75,000 crore would come from RBI and PSBs.
Not just is the windfall absent, the government has not even been able to reach half the amount of the previous year.
The windfall from demonetisation would fund welfare
In addition to the losses made by the government, the citizens have made losses - from disruption and decimation of livelihoods to time taken off daily wage work and expenses.
There will be no benefit/compensation to them. Likely, a reduction of existing benefits will happen due to the lack of funds this "minor inconvenience" will cause.
Yep, demonetisation has been every bit of the clusterfuck it had been predicted to be, and we are not even close to recovering from the damage done.
Political parties in India are not required to account for small cash donations. This has been used to do much evil in India. Political parties should consider exchanging the troublesome notes for citizens as donations received and returned (for whatever reason, including "demonetisation") and get the notes exchanged in bulk at the RBI (or deposited into their bank accounts and withdrawn as legal tender for further exchange).
The RBI cannot shrug off liability for these notes on whim.
In current cash strapped circumstances, with banks no longer exchanging cash, the common man can hardly walk up on a daily basis to the RBI. It is an open secret that political parties can be and are used to launder money. For once, this laundering of exchange would actually be in the larger public good.
It is also an open secret that political parties spend considerable amounts of money to "buy" votes. This wouldn't need them to spend a thing beyond the expenses of their own volunteers.
An open political campaign such as this would be a good protest move, help people and encourage them to feel an affinity with your local party office resulting in a win-win situation for citizens as well as political parties. Where distance deems it suitable, exchange and protest marches to RBI for exchange would allow people usually intimidated by the idea of approaching RBI to find comfort in numbers.
Even better, it would save political parties a hell of a lot of money they usually spend on voters, when they help voters survive the BJP. This matters when fighting a party as well funded as the BJP.
Note: I oppose opaque funding in political parties. I believe it violates the voter's right to information on influences acting on the candidate they vote for. However, since parties have resisted transparency in accounts, in this instance I believe that it should at least be used for some good, for once.
There is an abundance of claims by the government both about the virtues of demonetisation as well as the duration of the "inconvenience" people have to go through. Here is my attempt to debunk some of them.
To begin with, there is a slight problem. The objectives of the demonetisation have not been officially and explicitly listed anywhere, it appears, so one must draw them based on the Prime Minister's speech and whatever various people have said would be a "good" result from the demonetisation. These include fighting black money, fake currency notes, reducing corruption, bringing most of the money in the country into the banking system, generating more taxes and improving economy. Other non-stated objectives, widely pointed out of course, would be the ongoing bank bailout using private funds of citizens (recapitalizing, it is called in polite circles) and strangling the financial resources and thus limiting power while contesting elections for political opponents.
Let us look at these one by one.
Fighting black money
There seems to be no consensus on how much black money exactly is in the form of currency notes. An estimated 6% of all illegitimate income recovered has been in the form of currency, which does not appear to be a lot in comparison with the losses to the economy from the shock of the demonetisation. How much has been recovered is unclear. There are several reported instances of notes being confiscated. However how much of it is black money and how much is (or gets explained away as) legitimate income remains to be seen. There are reports of the news of the demonetisation already been leaked to the wealthy well in time and is supported by increased sales of gold before the demonetisation being announced. Additionally, as economists are repeatedly cautioning, black money is a result of the nature of the transaction rather than a quality of the money, so the same notes can be black money or white depending on the legality of the transaction and whether it is declared in taxes.
Supporters of the government, in their attempts to silence all criticism of demonetisation have increasingly taken to demonising cash transactions or the possession of cash itself as black money, which is a dangerous perspective in a country where 95% of the transactions happen in cash. They might as well call India a black money country. This view is incorrect and obfuscates facts. However, there is no shortage of reports of the old notes themselves being traded for a lesser value creating an overnight black market ranging from a single note to crores being laundered through agents. Between the advance warning and the laundering a large amount of the already small percentage of black money is likely to have safely returned to its owners without changing color.
A small percentage of people may declare their money and choose to pay tax on it, but this is not likely to be a large amount given that amounts over 2.5 lakh will be flagged for Income Tax, and those that cannot be explained as legitimate income are likely to incur a 200% fine in addition to the tax on the deposit (though there currently does not appear to be a provision under the law), essentially leaving only 10% with the owner of the money. Another percentage of the black money is likely to be confiscated from suspicious deposits in banks and through raids. Given that the Income Tax Department will have to show that this money is not legitimate income, the percentage of money likely to be confiscated will be small compared with all deposits flagged, if for no reason then for the sheer number of accounts that will be flagged requiring manpower to investigate and process. No doubt mass mailing of notices will happen and is already reported to have started.
However, there appear to be plenty of ways for people to launder money, including big and connected agents close to the government, false sales of gold, purchase of gold, backdated fixed deposits in banks, interest free loans, advance salaries for several months to employees and more. The government itself offered the victims of the Kanpur train tragedy compensation in the old and illegal notes. It is anyone's guess whether these amounts were originally withdrawn as legal notes and swapped with illegal ones before giving the victims, since the notes not being legal tender cannot be legally paid out by the government after demonetisation.
But the biggest blow to claims of black money being hindered by #demonetisation is the abundance of people named as having offshore accounts, notorious for having black money, cronies who have benefited from disproportionate favors from Modi led governments (state before center) and of course the noble denizens of the black money rich Bollywood. If all these people support demonetisation, they are clearly not worried about their black money being in trouble.
Fighting fake currency notes
The new notes introduced have no additional security features. Existing notes are already counterfeited, so it does not seem like demonetisation will prevent fake currency to any large degree. In fact, within days of the new notes being released, there were instances of photocopies of the notes being used to defraud people, including, in one instance by school children. The garish color and relatively flimsy paper of the new 2000 rupee notes make even real notes appear to be dubious in comparison with regular currency notes. How soon or late counterfeiters start producing fake notes is anyone's guess, but there is absolutely nothing to indicate that it won't happen. We certainly seem to have failed in intercepting their distribution, or fake notes would not be a reason to demonetise.
This seems to be mostly fiction, as even in this short duration, a bribe of four lakhs was paid using the new 2,000 rupee notes, that at the time of being caught had not even been released for a week. Reducing corruption cannot be achieved by changing currency. It would require better law enforcement and deterrents. The government machinery being one of the biggest causes of corruption in the country on every level, the government making a claim of reducing corruption with the simple changing of notes sounds mostly like the fox claiming to provide security for the poultry. Indeed in recent days, we have seen allegations backed by documents that implicate the Prime Minister himself in receiving over 55 crores from the Sahara group when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
Another set of serious allegations come from several quarters, notably a BJP MLA himself, indicating that businessmen close to the ruling party had advance notice of the demonetisation and had already cleared their black money. A third allegation is that people close to the president of BJP, Amit Shah himself are exchanging large sums of black money for a fat commission. This is by Yatin Oza, a former BJP MLA who also claims to have videos backing his accusation as well as makes some realistic challenges about the richest people not featuring among those with large deposits of money into banks. Large quantities of 2,000 rupee notes seen with various people support these accusations, as no one can legally get a bundle of 2,000 rupee notes at this point due to limitations on withdrawal. None of these allegations have so far been denied by the Prime Minster or Amit Shah.
While the country lines up for access to its own cash, a large number of loans by high profile defaulters have been written off. A green fine worth 200 crore levied on Adani has been waived. BJP MLA from Rohtak has publicly reassured black money owners that they need not worry and that Haryana Chief Minister Khattar and Modi were with them. And all this is just within the last few days without needing any extensive searches through history. It is unclear why corruption would reduce under a leadership like this.
Routing most money through the banking system
How much money remains in the banking system is a matter of debate once the cash demonetised is fully replaced. Opinions are split on this. Right now people have no choice, since they aren't allowed to withdraw much cash, and banks are often even failing to provide the allowed limits of cash given the severe cash crunch that is likely to last for 4 - 6 months by most estimates. When they do have choice, it is quite possible that a lot of the cash will be withdrawn right back out. Also, given the availability of the 2,000 rupee notes and their relatively low utility for transactions, the only purpose they could realistically be used in any quantity appears to be hoarding. Even while limited cash withdrawals are allowed, there have been several instances of bundles of 2,000 rupees being seen with people including office bearers of the BJP as well as being used to pay bribes. The instances described in the black money laundering also would remain outside the banking system. So it is entirely possible that while the country struggles for cash, a lot of the illegitimate money may still remain out of the system, merely converted to new notes.
In the meanwhile, there seems to be some evidence for the misuse of Jan Dhan accounts (and indeed it could be done with other accounts too) for parking funds. So money entering the banking system may not necessarily be in a manner desired. My suspicion is also that if there are corrupt bank employees, money could be deposited into the bank accounts of people who aren't even aware that their account is being used for laundering. Such money could probably be recovered by forging signatures on withdrawal slips or misuse of debit cards if the person whose account is misused is known to the launderer and trusts them. There seems to be evidence of this happening as well. Such money would fly right out of the banking system once scrutiny was reduced and if caught, would implicate a complete innocent.
The large number of Jan Dhan accounts lying unused and thus likely to not be monitored by owners are particularly a concern, as they have been suspected to be misused for hawala transations in the past.
Improving collection of taxes
While there will be increased collection of taxes, there are easier ways of doing this with far less loss to the economy. Namely tax reforms, reducing corruption in the tax system and robust enforcement. As of now, about 1% of India's population pays taxes. Given the widespread poverty even with an absurdly low poverty line, how much this number can be realistically expected to rise is anyone's guess. The economic stagnation will also result in fewer taxes being collected because of lost jobs, wages, business losses and devalued goods, even if more people temporarily seem to be on the radar.
Banks will be recapitalized, loans will be easier to get, interest rates will be lowered... are the expected outcomes from demonetisation. I am no expert on these matters, but given the kind of slowdown the economy is seeing, there will also be reduced deposits, transactions, people digging into savings and businesses collapsing, taking their loans down the drain with them. There is speculation that low interest loans will encourage rebuilding of the economy. No economist of note seems optimistic that it will outstrip the shrinking already set into motion. At best it is put as a possibility in the long run, all things going well. All things don't appear to be going well, given that it will be months before there is any liquidity worth mentioning for businesses. What advantage will evolve in the long run remains to be seen.
Preventing terror financing
This seems to be a popular reason on TV as well as supporters of the government. Modi himself referred to it in his speech. However, going by evidence so far, it does not make sense. Manohar Parrikar hurried to claimsuccess as a halt in stone pelting incidents in Kashmir after demonetisation. This echoes a popular belief within the ranks of the BJP leadership and supporters - that the stone pelting incidents in Kashmir are not spontaneous protests, but well organized and funded with black money. However, this couldn't be farther from the truth. Apart from demonetisation having triggered stone pelting on banks in other parts of the country, the stone pelting in Kashmir had actually reduced by October - as per the J&K Home department data (BJP itself is a part of the J&K government) - well before demonetisation and there have been incidents of stone pelting after the demonetisation as well, though congruent with the slower frequency. Furthermore, Kashmir actually saw the least disruption to daily life and order as a result of demonetisation in the country - this is attributed to the penetration of banking to even remote parts of Kashmir as compared with the rest of the country.
Furthermore, the most counterfeited currency in the world is the dollar and it is also the one most likely to be used by international terrorists for financing, yet demonetisation has not seemed to be a feasible deterrent to any such use if it happens. In comparison, Indian currency has far more limited use - within India and Nepal alone and is even less likely to be used. Several people have pointed out that there is no reason why terrorists wouldn't use online banking and electronic transfers, given that they could be accomplished with fake identities, and being caught for taxes is unlikely to bother those willing to brave the consequences of being caught for terrorism (there may be the potential to dispute this using some jokes on taxes here).
Attack on finances of other political parties
One would expect to see a lot more agitation among political parties if their finances were truly disrupted. And it would have been possible for the BJP to disrupt them quite thoroughly if it had chosen to implement transparency in political funding as well. However, BJP has not done that - quite likely as a result of it being the party with the largest amounts of unaccounted funding in the country at present. Consequently, the other parties are merely opposing the BJP for politics as well as the sheer disastrous nature of the demonetisation. There seem to be no indications of alarm for their own well being.
There have been no instances of black money being found with rival parties or politicans so far. In fact, so far the few instances of large amounts of cash being found as currency notes have all been from the BJP itself. The reason for this likely is that political parties being allowed to accept funds in cash as well as not provide details for donations under 20,000 rupees, it is a routine practice for parties to even show larger amounts of black money as several donations of smaller amounts. Far from being cornered, rival parties would likely be able to comfortably change old notes for new ones, including the potential of laundering black money to white for politicians belonging to the party.
It is unclear what advantage, if any the demonetisation will end up giving BJP in comparison with rivals when measured against the tremendous inconvenience, losses and worse caused to voters.
This post will be updated with links to all the claims and quotes in a couple of days when I get some time. Till then, you could probably google the references up if you need them.
27th October, 2016, Navi Mumbai: Here is a real-life thriller. Justdial starts plundering the bank account of an HDFC Bank customer, while the bank acts like an helpless bystander. After the dust settles, the bank tells its customer to go to the police, while it does absolutely nothing to prevent Justdial from robbing other customers. In May 2016, Sanjeev Goel, managing partner of a coaching academy called Pure Energy Academy in Belapur, Navi Mumbai, signed a contract with Justdial for business promotion. June onwards, Justdial started sucking unlimited amounts of money from Pure Energy's bank account by using a fraudulent Electronic Clearance Service (ECS) mandate. Although the bank managers now understand how the crime was perpetrated, they refuse to take steps to protect thousands of customers from Justdial and other fraudulent companies following the same modus operandi. HDFC Bank's excuse is that National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) – which handles ECS transactions -- does not require them to do so. HDFC Bank is ignoring RBI's guideline which explicitly requires them to confirm the ECS mandate with their customer first.
How Justdial cheats
Pure Energy Academy's contract with Justdial was for payment of Rs 1040/- per month, for a period of one year. See the terms of contract below.
Two cheques were issued towards the first two monthly payments. However, Justdial activated the contract a day after depositing both the cheques on 3rd June. The delay of one month in depositing the first cheque appears to be because the signature, stamp and other details of the cheques contained were being used by Justdial's backroom boys to creat a forged ECS/NACH mandate form enabling them to charge upto Rs 1040/- as many times in a month as they wished. With this phony mandate, Justdial could directly withdraw limitless money from Pure Energy's bank account by presenting the ECS/NACH mandate for the next 14 years! Also, the ECS mandate was made out to be non-cancellable! See the forged ECS/NACH mandate below.
(Note: take a close look at this document; it is so obviously fishy! All the options are pre-tick-marked and cancelled in the printed form itself. They are not tickmarked or cancelled by hand, the form is printed that way! Even the supposed termination date of the contract – 31/03./2030 – is printed, and only the starting date is entered by hand. The frequency options i.e. Monthly, quarterly, half-yearly and yearly, are all pre-cancelled in the printed form, and "As and when presented" is pre-tickmarked. The debit type option of "Maximum amount" is also pre-selected in the printed stationery. Also notice that something has been pasted on top of the form, partly covering the words "Client" and "Reference" on the left-hand-side. Like a cheque, the ECS mandate is a negotiable instrument, so how can it have a pasted-on layer? Aren't negotiable instruments rejected by banks if there is pasting, over-writing etc.? This ECS mandate defies commonsense!)
Using this dubious ECS mandate, Justdial started guzzling money from Pure Energy Academy's bank account. Justdial encashed both the cheques on 3rd June, and debited Rs 1040/- on 30th June by ECS – three debits in the first month of the contract. Despite Sanjeev telling them to terminate the contract, Justdial debited Rs 1040/- in July, August and September, plus Rs 110/- twice in September. Within four months, Justdial took payment for more than six months.
See Statement of Account below.
Pure Energy Academy's stop-payment instructions over net-banking and email, starting 31st August, were ignored, sidestepped and buck-passed by HDFC Bank. The bank stopped the ECS mandate only on 10th October. The bank's actions of commission and omission need a closer scrutiny.
How HDFC Bank turned a blind eye
1) HDFC Bank did not seek its customer's confirmation of this ECS mandate. Although the ECS mandate presented by Justdial defies logic (allowing unlimited withdrawals for 14 years) Defying RBI's clear directions, HDFC Bank never sought Sanjeev's confirmation of the ECS mandate. Had this basic step been taken, many clear signs of forgery and contradictions between Justdial's contract and the ECS mandate would have come to light.
2) HDFC Bank did not send him SMS alerts when money was debited by Justdial. So Sanjeev did not notice this unusual activity until 31st August, 2016, when he got his accounts statement. Then he raised an alarm, wirinting to both Justdial and HDFC Bank executives. Both responded with delaying tactics, vagueness and buck-passing.
3) HDFC Bank managers are inadequately trained, ill-informed and non-committal. The bank managers clearly did not know where the original instrument i.e. ECS/NACH mandate, was to be found. The Belapur Banch Manager and others kept giving false promises, saying that they had initiated the process of getting the original ECS mandate, and it would land on their table within a few days. They contradicted themselves and each other repeatedly in this and other ways. Finally, on 15th October, they washed their hands off the whole problem, arguing that since NPCI had the original copy of the mandate, they were not authorized to access it. What the HDFC Bank managers advised Sanjeev was, "Let the police register an FIR against Justdial, then they will requisition the original copy of the ECS mandate from NPCI and scrutinize it as part of their investigations. We are no longer involved in your problem." However, they said this orally and refused to put it down in writing.
HDFC Bank refuses to compensate Pure Energy Academy by reversing the debits. After belatedly examining the copy of the ECS mandate on 3rd October, it became clear to the branch manager and others that this was a case of fraud and forgery, but they refused to take any action. Their final stand is that Sanjeev must file a police complaint. If and only if the police register an FIR against Justdial, HDFC Bank will consider reversing the debits. This also is only a feeble oral statement, and the bank's managers are unwilling to even talk about it with any certainty.
But what if the police does not register FIR? Suppose the police takes the stand that this is a banking issue, and therefore, they have no understanding of it, and therefore, Sanjeev should complain to appropriate authorities in the banking domain? Then Sanjeev will effectively be left with no remedies, and Justdial will get away scotfree! For HDFC Bank, however, it will just be business-as-usual.
Note: Other equally serious issues have come to light. A whole lot of arbitrary and questionable debits are being made by this bank, without the customers' permission. We will focus on those issues in our next article.
On Short Term Crop Loans - BRIBES & Documentation cost and Interest cost 8% for average 3 months Translates to 36+ Interest Rate on compounding.
On Short Term Loans - BRIBES & Documentation cost around 12% for average 2 Years, @ 14% is 40-45% Charge in 2 years or 21%+ Rate on compounding.
Banks Take Rs.1 Cr As Collateral For Rs.2 Lakh Loans UnlikeIndustry Which Invariably FUND More Than Project Cost Farmers REFUND Bank Loans As Soon As Possible.
Agriculture Credit FRAUD on 800m Farmers Short & Long Term
As Farmer’s agitations are coming up across India I is important to highlight FRAUD of Banking Credit to Indian Farmers which are Incompetently Represented in Lok Sabha & Rajya Sabha and mislead by rich Farming Leaders like Ajay Vir Jakhar.
Dimension of the Fraud is such that even RBI has not released data for four years.
Long Term Loan Issued Rs.1,07,162 cr - Growth Rs.13,785 cr
Here in the tables for 2010-11 and 2011-12 it is Clear that Long Term Credit to 800m Farmers barely increased from Rs.2,05,755 Crores to Rs.2,19,540 Crores orRs.13,785 Cr – Credit to Mukesh Ambani’ RIL alone this year went up from Rs.1,38,000 Cr to Rs.1,60,000 cr or Rs.22,000 cr.
Credit to 800m Indian Farmers - Short Term [Couple Months]