It should come as no surprise that the top leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party is hardly enthused by a local neta’s bid to “sweeten” the hardships of those standing in serpentine queues at banks and ATMs in the Capital by offering them laddoos.
While that may be an attempt by the relatively insignificant politician to try a cheap gimmick to attract some publicity, hopefully some popularity too, his action is also proving a trifle embarrassing. For it flies in the face of the contention of the Prime Minister, finance minister and fawning officials that demonetisation is causing only “temporary inconvenience” to the common folk.
The seething resentment of those who spend hours, if not days, to get their own “white” money needed to keep the pot boiling, the deaths of people waiting in queues, and the reported suicide of a few who returned home with empty pockets, all make the use of “inconvenience” appear ridiculous: they are suffering for no fault of their own.
And that there has been no tangible improvement in the cash-crunch that dawned on the morning of 9 November disproves the “temporary” nature of the difficulties. While Mr Narendra Modi asked for 50 days to set things right, no one else in authority is now ready to hazard a guess when there will be an end to the dislocation of so many facets of normal life.
Parliament was only “disrupted”, for so many people at the lower end of the economic and social scale it is a case of their livelihood having been dismantled. A free laddoo is no relief, probably a case of adding insult to injury. Even if the local leader is given the benefit of the doubt and his motivation is accepted as altruistic, it marks the first significant admission of an “insider” that the management of the purported campaign against unaccounted wealth has been pathetic.
A point underscored by daily “recoveries” of huge quantities of new currency notes, with no satisfactory explanation of how they came into the possession of the entity “raided”. That nationwide raids have been carried out is ~ like the free laddoos ~ another reluctant admission of administrative ham-handedness. With over 50 changes announced in the cash-disbursement rules, the charge of incompetence gets reinforced.
There has been enough time for effective remedial action to be taken, but that would mean first admitting that things went awry, so rather than try and make up for the cash shortage the government has tried to deflect attention by talking of a digital economy.
Yet each new point-of-sale device and other electronic/plastic initiative is an “addition” to the story being told by the laddoos: a “sweet” story that articulates very bitter realities.