When the Prime Minister announced demonetisation of 500 and 1000 rupee notes on the night of 8th November 2016, the first reaction all over the country was one of stunned disbelief.
The main objective of this move was to curb black money, corruption and fake money menace. In India demonetisation was undertaken twice in the past, once in 1946 and the second time in 1978. However, during both those times, the Indian economy was not so vibrant. The notes demonetised were of high denominations with very few people having access to these high denomination notes and hence not much hardship was faced by the common man. However, the present demonetisation announcement had widespread repercussions. The 500 and 1000 rupee notes being the most widely circulated denominations, their demonetisation left people with no cash in hand even to purchase daily perishables like bread, milk and eggs, vegetables and fruits.
The only fact that actually gave the common man solace was the stated purpose of the demonetisation i.e. unearthing of black money and curbing of terror financing. Another motive of the government in demonetisation was to create a cashless economy. Cashless transactions have the benefit of transparency i.e. all transactions can be traced and tracked. This helps the government to track payment to terrorist organizations and other anti-national activities.
One major cause for concern in the less cash economy has, however, been the danger of cyber crimes. While, the digital methods reduce the risks involved in carrying cash, they are prone to cyber security risks. At the same time there are definite solutions to handle cyber crimes.
Digitisation of the economy has been undertaken in various countries with some being successful and some not very successful. The most successful effort so far, has been in Sweden. How successful it will be in India will depend on how much awareness is created among India’s vast illiterate and semi-literate population, especially in rural areas, who have virtually no or very less access to internet. With effective government policies to deal with cyber security issues and large scale awareness drives to educate people, one can hope to see India become a global player in the digital economy.