Will note ban affect results?

ELECTIONS IN UTTAR PRADESH : Cash crunch has affected the farmers - big, small and marginal. The returns may be more unprofitable than in the past.

Will note ban affect results?
The initial fervor of `note bandi’ (demonetisation) among the public in Uttar Pradesh is now seemingly on the wane. At one time, there was terrible excitement about black money coming under control and the conmen going to the gallows. But then, people think and act differently.

Note bandi has affected the youth, the women, the migrant workers and daily wage earners, the small and big shopkeepers, the farmers, and the politicians of all hues and colours, but differently. However, they are as much concerned about their own welfare as those of the neighbours and the community. That is the rich mosaic of a poor state.

The youth enamoured by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bold step, stood in long unwinding queues in terrible winters. Their belief in the righteousness of the idea remained unshattered and were wooed to stand for the same much as our jawans do in the cold, freezing frontiers of the country.

In some places in Allahabad, those in the queues got rasagullas in praise. In contrast, in Deoria, the youth threw shoes and chappals at the Parivartan Yatra of the BJP. This was repeated in many other places as well.

The youth now engage in a war of ideas within themselves: they voted for a strong leader 30 months ago, is it time to give up on him? Or is it too early to take a call? What good demonetisation has done to them? These thoughts cut across among youth of all castes in the state, except for the diehard within them. When youth start thinking on their own, the signals can be red for the ruling regime.

Rural women who largely keep money hidden from their husbands to be used in emergencies were stunned by currency ban move. These monies were to be used to give to their married daughters and sons-in-law in small amounts when they would come home. Cheated by the note bandi, their small dreams are shattered. They are an unhappy lot.

Women remaining at home and men migrating to other states for seasonal employment are common in the state. From Meja near Allahabad, the stone breakers have migrated to Western India, mainly to Gujarat for work.

Thousands from UP work in diamond industry in Surat. These migrant labourers from across Uttar Pradesh are returning in hoards from Mumbai and Gujarat.

Most have returned after failing to receive their wages ranging between Rs 4,000 and Rs 20,000. For them, there is no work in Gujarat or Mumbai, nor any daily wage manual job under the rural job scheme back home.

Kallo Devi in Jhusi, Allahabad spent a lakh of rupees on her daughter’s marriage expecting to pay back from earnings from their fruit shop but the stream of customers went dry. Now, she is indebted to three micro finance agencies which are after her. There are thousands of such small shops in crisis. To cope with this, they are looking for the swap machines, not realising the government’s strategy to bring them under the tax regime for a successful GST.

Traders, who are traditional BJP supporters, are beginning to realise that if they use the e-payment option, higher taxes will have to be paid. A young student flaunted his debit card to pay for a pack of chikki, assuming that shopkeeper would not have a swap machine. The shopkeeper took out the swap machine and retorted, “Rs 50 in cash or Rs 70 by swap.” The student grinned, took out the Rs 50 note and sauntered with the chikki.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley would not give up easily. He has announced awards for lucky winners of e-payment users, enticing them into a lottery. He is likely to have countless unhappy ones against each winner.

The fervor of extracting black money — a matter of national pride and nationalist consciousness — is being refueled with bolder statements including a strike on benami assets. These efforts will be weighed against the grim realities that people face and a shock to their means of living.

Lesser yield

The farmers — big, small and the marginal — have been affected by cash crunch. Most have been able to sow the fields but have been forced to use less fertiliser and await a lesser yield. Informal credit is available at usurious rates.

The returns are likely to be more unprofitable than in the past. Some farmers are still selling their kharif paddy and are offered by the trader Rs 1,500 per quintal in cash now or Rs 1,900 at an unstated later date. They rue the note bandi. Most of the farmers belong to the other backward classes who are supporters of the Samajwadi Party.

In the meanwhile, BSP leader Mayawati landed in a controversy, having deposited Rs 102 crore in the party account and challenging all political parties, the BJP in particular, to declare their bank accounts. She asked the BJP as to how much they deposited in their banks 10 months prior to and after note bandi. The Dalits take pride in their confident leader.

The chess board for the impending elections has been laid with affected people as pawns. Akhilesh Yadav, the chief minister, has stolen the development agenda from the BJP. The Congress seemingly a small player, has underlined the concerns of farmers and daily wage workers more than others but has few listeners and even lesser followers.

The BJP has invested heavily in the state but how much it will reap remains to be seen, given the cash crunch. In this election time, issues like communal violence and Ram mandir may crop up any time. The BJP is yet to open its cards. The BSP which plays straight and is a mighty force, the SP’s internal troubles, the Congress failing to find any following, are some of the features of this election. 

(The writer is Director, G B Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad)

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