Modi’s ‘Survival of Richest’ Theory & the Myth of Cashless Economy
All of you are aware of Darwin’s theory of ‘survival of the fittest’. Indians are experiencing a similar (if slightly different) sort of phenomenon since 9 November, which can be called Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s theory of ‘survival of the richest’.
Ever since the demonetisation announcement, the earnings of unorganised sector has reduced alarmingly – up to 60 percent. Furthermore, their work is diminishing with each day. With little access to banking, plastic money and e-wallets, the unorganised sector has borne the brunt of the move.
Everyone, including the neighbourhood vegetable vendor, tailor, and potter, claimed to have witnessed a 30-60 percent fall in daily business. About 40 percent of India’s economy lies in the unorganised sector, which is the biggest employment generator.
Almost every exchange in the informal economy – between contractual workers, merchants, plumbers, carpenters, blacksmiths, barbers, mechanics, washermen, small restaurants, dhabas, tea shops and so on – is done in cash. Nobody can dare call this ‘cash economy’ of hardworking Indians a ‘black economy’ just because they are not under the ambit of the banking system.
Auto Drivers Hit Badly
Sheik Basheer, a 35-year-old auto-rickshaw driver in Telangana, set himself on fire after he went into depression post demonetisation. Mohammad Pathan, another autorickshaw driver and resident of Ahmedabad, was devastated when he thought that the Rs 3 lakh he had set aside for his daughter’s wedding due on 26 November was rendered useless after Centre’s note ban move.
App-based cab service providers like Uber and Ola have eaten into the wages of traditional auto and taxi drivers and things are set to deteriorate further.
Ola claimed its ‘Ola Money’ feature has seen an increase of 1,500 percent in wallet recharges since demonetisation. This indicates that the only way to commute is Ola and Uber.
Vegetable Vendors Bear the Brunt
Vegetable vendors have also been affected severely. Many of them keep their stalls shut as they feel they won't get enough customers through the day. Most of them are uneducated, and there have been instances of people fooling them by giving photocopied Rs 2,000 notes.
Grocery shopping mobile applications such as Grofers, Localbanya, Big Basket, Housejoy and others have introduced various offers prompting users to order the daily essentials through them using debit and credit cards and earn benefits like vouchers and cashbacks.
This has worsened the condition of vegetable vendors so much that they have already started doing mazdoori (manual labour) at construction sites just to have a stable income.
Rich Continue to Survive and Thrive
The millionaires, who are taking advantage of the situation and earning increased profits, should understand that we are already a cashless economy. People don’t have cash to buy vegetables, fruits, use public transport, pay household workers, or pay school fees for their children. The idea of cashless economy is used by 4 percent of Indians who own 53 percent of the nation’s wealth.
The misery of 363 million Indians who survive on less than 40 rupees a day is forgotten. It’s absurd to think that people who do not have money to buy food will buy a smartphone and use Paytm. If the government can’t generate employment for the people, or provide basic healthcare for them, what is the use of chest-thumping for cashless economy, Digital India and Startup India?
Myth of a Cashless Economy
It is pointless to even imagine India as a cashless economy, when there is no internet access for 60 percent of the population. A characteristic feature of Indian economy is its dependence on daily cycle of income. However, since demonetisation, those working in the unorganised sector find themselves lost, with a question mark on their income and savings.
It is not necessary for one to be an Amartya Sen, a Kaushik Basu or a Raghuram Rajan to see through Modi’s theory of ‘survival of the richest’. It is obvious that there will be a transfer of income from unorganised sector to the organised. The rich are going to get richer while the poor struggle to survive.
(The writer is a graduate student. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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