Nobel laureate Amartya Sen calls note ban despotic and authoritarian; but nobody is listening in India

Amartya Sen said demonetisation is about minimal achievement and maximal suffering

The Central government’s decision to ban high value currencies is “despotic and authoritarian,” said Nobel Laureate and Bharat Ratna Amartya Sen.

In an interview to Barkha Dutt for NDTV, Sen said the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw Rs 1000 and an Rs 500 notes is about minimal achievement and maximal suffering.

“The alleged objective of dealing with black money is something all Indians would laud. But we have to ask whether this is the good way to do it? This decision is about minimal achievement and maximal suffering,” he said.

When asked about the use of “despotic,” Dr Sen said it is a sense that it breaks down trust in the currency.

“If suddenly a government says we won’t pay you, that is despotic. I am not a fan of capitalism but…trust is key to capitalism; this goes against trust altogether,” he said.

“There is a potential danger of undermining the economy and the very basis of capitalism. Tomorrow the government could do the same with bank accounts and not allow anything above a certain amount unless people prove they are not racketeers,” Sen added.

Dr Sen also said that the ban is small fry in terms of achievement but a big disruptor to the Indian economy.

“We all want something to be done about black money. But surely, it also has to be intelligent and humane. That has not happened,” he said in the interview.

Speaking to ‘The Indian Express’ in an interview earlier, Dr Sen said that informing the public suddenly of the decision does not promise anything and is a more complex manifestation of authoritarianism.

“Only an authoritarian government can calmly cause such misery to the people —with millions of innocent people being deprived of their money and being subjected to suffering, inconvenience and indignity in trying to get their own money back,” he said.

Amartya Sen, who has been critical of Modi government, recently removed from the governing board of Nalanda University after nine years of association.

Sen, an acclaimed economist, had resigned as Chancellor of Nalanda University in February 2015 and publicly lashed out at the BJP-led NDA government after stepping down.