This changed after the evening of November 8, when Prime Minister Modi announced his plans to “demonetise” Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. Arthakranti Pratishthan has been credited with sowing the seeds of “demonetisation” in the minds of the Prime Minister and his economic advisors. Bokil is now a celebrity.
On Saturday, as Bokil and his accomplices –Ashutosh Phalke and Amod Phalke – locked the office of Arthakranti Pratishthan on Paud Road in Western Pune and headed for a late lunch, people who had queued up in front of the SBI ATM craned their necks to catch a glimpse of Bokil. Some looked in sheer admiration, others simply nodded coldly.
Today, the mere mention of Bokil or the Pratishthan sparks off heated debates on the merits and demerits of the demonetisation move. There is a growing buzz that the other proposals of the thinktank are finding their way into the next Union Budget. But the man of the hour is not satisfied with the way the “demonetisation” has taken off. “This is not what we proposed,” says the 52-year-old Bokil, as he dipped a piece of bhakri roti in pithla (a thick curry made of gram flour) and spicy green chutney. “The government has only taken one part of our five-point plan… We had a proper transition plan from large currency denominations to smaller ones,” laments Bokil.
As several experts have pointed out, Bokil also does not agree that this was demonetisation. “The government has only replaced large denomination currencies with even more larger notes.” What Arthakranti Pratishthan proposed was to “positively change” India’s socio-economic scenario by restructuring tax policies, limiting the use of hard cash, making capital and credit cheaper and reducing the flow of black money in the system. Supporters say the proposals are practical, bereft of complex economic theories, models or mathematical equations. But skeptics call Arthakrantis unworldly and utopian.
PM Modi, it seems, is not among the skeptics though. Bokil and his volunteers met Modi in July 2013 when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat. The meeting, scheduled for ten minutes, extended to over 90 minutes. Modi, according to Arthakrantis, was impressed with idea of revamping the existing tax system and replacing it with one overarching banking transaction tax (BTT). Indeed, Modi had alluded to BTT in his election rallies two years ago.
But the withdrawal of high-value currencies is only the third step in the Arthakranti plan. ‘Compression of currencies’ (denomination withdrawal) should have followed the withdrawal of all central government taxes like personal income tax, central excise and service tax and circulation of additional Rs 500 notes in the system (to temporarily replace the withdrawn Rs 1000 notes) so that people did not face an acute shortage of money.
Millions of people have scrambled to banks for Rs 100 notes or new denominations of Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 after the sudden ban on Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. Serpentine queues form every day at banks across the country trying to change the old large denomination notes.
Bokil says it will take time for return to normalcy. “The Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currencies account for close to 85% of notes in circulation… If you ban the entire lot in one go, how you will manage the flow of currencies?” quips Bokil. According to Bokil, the government is now driving on a GPRS system. “They’ve lost the transition plot completely. They should’ve stuck to our transition plan at least.”
Countering the government’s argument, the Arthakrantis say the banning of old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes would do little to curb the incidence of black money. They see the demonetisation drive as only a means to cut the flow of counterfeit notes in the system. “It could be matters relating to national security that forced the government to take such a snappy step. If that’s the case, we heartily welcome this move,” Bokil adds.
Source Economics times