Is Silence Of The Public A Justification Of Demonetisation?
  New Delhi: “Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence of the people.”

Since the demonetization of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on November 9, India has undergone severe hardships. Even after nearly 50 days, queues outside banks and Automatic Teller Machines have not shortened, rural markets have slumped exposing the inefficiency of the Modi government.

But, Narendra Modi continues to have it easy politically, than putting in place a clear plan to implement a policy decision that has affected India’s 1.2 billion people.

No leader in India and perhaps no other political figure in any modern democracy could have survived the demonetization crisis for seven weeks as Narendra Modi has.

It is difficult to imagine the Manmohan Singh government or any other government producing this kind of euphoria in either the media or the middle class urban population if it had chosen to demonetize. The reaction would likely have been the opposite: resentment at being made to go through the trouble. And if it had carried on for early fifty days (and many more days to come as the things stand) there would have been extreme anger.

So, what has made things easy for Modi, politically?

Is it his exceptional talent of courting the public opinion or is it failure of opposition parties, media who are all struggling for survival or is it large scale public silence of the people who appear to have resigned to whatever is thrown at them?

The fact that Narendra Modi had to indulge in emotional speeches of his sacrificing everything and his breaking down during his dramatics were glaring reflections that post-demonetization things have gone out of hand.

Thus, his statement on 50 days of inconvenience had allowed him the freedom to think of how to re-position demonetization, while opposition continues to be divided in their unity.

The blunder of demonetization was tailor-made for the Opposition to pin the government down by tapping popular discontent. But instead of focusing on the Government’s inefficiencies and the travails of millions of people who have been hurt by one man’s unilateral decision on note swap, the opposition parties have been busy playing the game of political one-upmanship among themselves.

While the opposition parties failed to put up united voice to represent the public, in a situation where millions have their livelihoods battered, the public, surprisingly, also remained mute witness despite having a sense of acceptance about various infringements subjected upon them by demonetization exercise.

What made the public to be in silent disquiet mode and unwilling to display their anger in the face of alleged oppression?

The strategy of mass-marketing pseudo-morality meticulously wrapped in the package of “nationalism” and “patriotism” installed a fear among the public that any expression of dissent and opposition to the demonetization would make them corrupt and anti-national. And, hence, the silently dissenting public has surrendered to the possibility that all this is for its betterment.

It is that emotional seed Modi has planted in the minds of the public kept them mute from expressing their dissent and helped Modi have his way thus far.

How does one fight it without feeling or sounding immoral? The psychological war unleashed by this government has effectively crushed response by instilling doubt. The few voices of protest are targeted with vengeance.

Ironically, any resentment against demonetization aids and abets Modi’s discourse, making the public to have second thoughts before they display their protest.

On the other hand, the sudden change of goalpost to digital economy has also became a perfect façade for Modi to hide behind and at the same time his ability to reduce corruption to only its financial manifestation also helping him to keep public silent from voicing against the shoddy implementation of the demonetization scheme.

Under the guise of ushering digital economy, it’s discomfiting how close the technology industry and government have been conniving against people’s right to privacy.

The direction being chosen to digitalize the economy doesn’t appear to have been decided in a manner that is open and participatory, and there’s a distinct attempt to ignore concerns of those who represent how it impacts people.

That the government speaks against a right as fundamental as privacy, to protect a project that is a privacy nightmare, is worrying. That people are dying in queues, or are being deprived of their pensions because of authentication failure, is distressing.

There are questions to be asked about how the ‘Digital Economy” policy is being made, and who knows that it is going the way it is? Who’s defining the standards, the protocols, and under what circumstances are these choices being made? How does it impact citizens and why are civil society concerns being ignored?

There are many questions remained unanswered, but no one to voice.

Thus, Modi’s authoritarian governance is today being strengthened and justified by the silence of the public.

Tags: Rs 500, Rs 1000, Corruption, Denotified Rs 500/Rs 1, 000 currency, RBI, PM Modi, India, Black Money, Coin, 10 Rs Coin, Banks, Exchanging Notes, Demonetisation

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