'You didn't say anything good about Modi; You must be a journalist
'Are you a journalist? No. But you spoke like one. Why think so? Because you didn't say anything good about Modi. But I didn't say anything bad either. You think journalists don't tell good things about him? Then you tell me one good thing about him. I shall tell you when I find one. Why not you tell me something I don't know. Everyone says he's good.' A Bengaluru techie's interesting conversation with an Uber driver, enroute the airport on the day 10 of demonetisation drive
Rajesh K Parameswaran
A 5-day break from work, the first one of the year, was getting off to a disastrous start. 18th year in the software industry probably takes a lot out of you, if you still don't come to terms with its demands. It can get really tricky and could tire you out. Lack of sleep, a bad sinus and a body temperature which was inching towards the fever zone had literally taken a toll on me. Skipped the airport shuttle and opted for an Uber cab to keep some money in the pocket for the coming days. Anyway, in the last few days only those who could spend in plastic are spending, rest are lined in front of ATMs in that pseudo war against black money. Five minutes into the ride, the cab driver wanted to know my thoughts on demonetization. The ensuing discussion was an interesting one. He was in his mid-twenties and had an opinion on things with whatever information he had.
Driver : Sir, how long do you think this problem is going to take, to get resolved.
Me : The cash crunch?
D: Yes sir, it's getting difficult day by day.
I don't know. Maybe a month, or two. Or it says it takes 175 days to print that much currency and circulate in the market.
175 days, but they are saying 15 days.
Yea, but they said 2 days and things will be alright. It's more than a week and it's total chaos.
That's true sir. Unlike you guys we can't always eat from places where you can use the card. People are hesitating to give credit also. And no one wants to spend now. Last weekend, I got just two rides. Usually, 15 20 trips are normal on a weekend.
Further, his questions got interesting. He asked me if Singapore can do it, why not India. I told him I wasn't sure if Singapore did a demonetisation over night. He also asked about the security chip in the new 2000 note. He also asked me about the 200 Lakh crore money that's going to come to the government. I asked him a few things. What was the offer when black money from abroad is brought back to India? He knew it was 15 Lakhs. How much you got so far..none. He knew one thing, all those who hoard black money does not keep it in cash. It's always real estate transactions he says. ( He's from Bellari, so he knows a thing or two about black money ).He thinks, maybe in the north people keep a lot of black money in cash. And that's why the Govt. is doing this.
I asked him about Vijay Mallya. He agrees to make Mallya payback his loans could bring a huge sum. I gave him rough figures from Panama papers, info on tax waivers and such. If the Govt. needs money, why can't they take it from the big businesses? According to him, it's not easy to get black money from abroad. There could be legal hurdles and under the table deals. Then we got into the number of 500/1000 notes. When I told him those were 85 percent of the total currency, he agrees. That's why we get soiled notes and coins from a bank, he added.
I showed him videos from some portals and asked him, do you think India has more business men or more daily wages workers. He knows it is daily wages workers. He also acknowledges that black to white is done via workers, even in Peenya as well. He had a lot to say about the Reddy marriage, stories from their money making and how Karnataka Govt could have helped them.
Then came his biggest doubt. If it is not going to be for our good, Modi won't do this. This was the first time that name came into the conversation. He asked me what I think. I said, I have no idea, but maybe he's right. I asked back why he thinks Modi won't go against common man interest.
That's what everyone says. He's like us.
But it's a week and it's getting terrible. He's not even bothering to address the parliament. He just says he needs time till Dec 31st.
Yes, that was shocking. He initially said 2 days and now it's 50 days.
He said 15 Lakhs from abroad, I reminded him.
Yea, he said a lot of things, nothing much happened. Prices have gone up, I need to slog hard to make ends meet.
I told him about tax waivers, loan waivers and penalty waivers which are enjoyed by Reliance, Adani and other big corporates. I explained him the money cycle where public money funds the greed of these corporates.
He agrees on one thing. It's even more difficult for someone his village to get educated. It was easier, 20 years ago, is what everyone says. Unless we are educated, we can't get the jobs created by these corporates. But if you have to select between food and education, you opt for food.
So, I asked him a question, what changed for you in the last 2 years?
Not sure sir. A few months back I would have said Uber. But there's a drastic decline in income for the last couple of months. I don't know what to do.
Why do you think the Govt is not bothered about this?
Maybe because we are poor.
But this Govt is headed by Modi, he's one among you. So he should care?
That's what I'm confused about.
I left him for his thoughts for the rest of the journey.
While getting down, the cracker of a question came.
Are you a journalist?
But you spoke like one.
Why think so?
Because you didn't say anything good about Modi.
But I didn't say anything bad either. You think journalists don't tell good things about him?
Then you tell me one good thing about him.
I shall tell you when I find one. Why not you tell me something
I don't know. Everyone says he's good.
Fine. It was nice talking to you.
Your Kannada was good.
Thanks, buddy. I shall call up and tell you one good thing about your leader when he does one. And this one here, the money magic doesn't count.
See you.. and he departs. I joined the airport queue which was busy discussing paytm deals.