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Corruption eradication: Continue to live in hope

How effective is the step Mr Modi has taken? We don’t know, is the honest answer, and we’re all waiting to find out. But bitter medicine, they say, works and this pill is not easy to swallow

columns Updated: Dec 04, 2016 01:02 IST
Once the compliance window closes, anyone found having undeclared overseas wealth would be required to pay 30% tax, 90% penalty and face criminal prosecution. (File Photo)
Once the compliance window closes, anyone found having undeclared overseas wealth would be required to pay 30% tax, 90% penalty and face criminal prosecution. (File Photo)

Pertie has a knack of asking seemingly innocent questions that require you to think long and hard before you’re confident of the answer. That’s what happened last week. “There’s absolutely no doubt demonetisation has made everybody suffer. You’re either short of cash or what you have no one is willing to accept,” he began. Then, after a pause, he added: “Yet very few are complaining. In fact, most people praise the Prime Minister for what he’s done. Is that a paradox or is it understandable?”

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I can’t deny that’s true but the challenge, as Pertie knows, is to explain it. So today let me see if I can and if you agree with my reasoning.

To start with we’re all fed up with corruption. Like termites it’s eaten into our lives. Indeed, we’ve got to the point where we accept nothing happens without a bribe. And the less influential or the more unknown you are the more comprehensively you’re affected by this cancer. So any serious step to tackle this culture of corruption will undoubtedly be welcomed. That, I’m confident, is the first reason so many support Mr Modi’s demonetisation.

However, this leads to the question: How effective is the step Mr Modi has taken? We don’t know, is the honest answer, and we’re all waiting to find out. But bitter medicine, they say, works and this pill is not easy to swallow. Psychologically and emotionally, therefore, we’re disposed to believe it will be efficacious. Indeed the pain it’s inflicting is considered by many a necessary part of the cure. So that’s a second reason for approving of demonetisation. It’s viewed as a root and branch attack on a metastasizing cancer.

However, it’s the third reason that is for many the possible clincher. Most of us are inclined to believe that everything works out for the best or, to put it differently, it will all be alright in the end. This means we’re either optimists or keep our spirits up by claiming to see a pinpoint of light, no matter how long and dark the tunnel may be. I’m certainly like that but I suspect so are most of you. Otherwise getting through bad patches would be close to impossible.

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This means that at the moment we’re gritting our teeth but also looking firmly at what we hope will be the bright side, a time, hopefully not too far in the future, when corruption will have been curbed and we can get what ought to be ours by right without having to literally pay for it. And if you choose to dismiss that as a dream, remember dreams are what keep people going, particularly the downtrodden, and if Mr Modi is able to convince you he can make them real who will not support him till he lets you down? You could say that’s beguilingly simple. But it is beguiling!

Now, when I put all of this to Pertie he responded with a cynical snort. “You don’t really need this mixture of conversational sociology and psychology. The bottom line is this is a situation when we all want Mr Modi to succeed and, therefore, we are willing to — indeed wanting to — believe he will or, at least, can. This is why so many people support him.”

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Which raises the question: What happens if demonetisation doesn’t substantially eliminate black money and cure the cancer of corruption? Well, let’s leave that for another Sunday and continue to live in hope.

The views expressed are personal