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Dear Modiji, Please Listen to My Maan KI Baat

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Saniya Kirpalani,Dubai-based filmmaker-writer-social activist, caught up in the vortex of demonetisation in India. With little USEFUL Indian currency in hand, she struggles to even buy essential medicines. The diabetic narrates her harrowing experience….A special for Asian Lite News. An open letter to Modi

modi-caricatureDear Mr Modi,

This is an open letter to you. I hope you listen to my Maan Ki Baat.  Despite my initial scepticism on you being voted in as India’s Prime Minister, over the last few months I have joined the many who have turned into Modi believers.

Despite the cacophony of multiple voices constantly asking why you aren’t working on bringing back India’s black money stuck overseas, I had you in great esteem and respect for being one of India’s first prime minister who hasn’t sullied his hands in corruption.

And so we are seeing some change…. More power to you. Yesterday evening’s speech on TV, when you addressed the nation and announced that you are going to immediately discontinue the denomination of 500.00Rs and 1000Rs from that very evening, did you even think of the impact it would have on the lives of the Aam Aadmi or our overseas guests. Or were they just collateral damage in your so-called witch hunt for black money and corruption money. Indeed, your heart is in the right place when you want to attack the root cause of erosion in our great country, but this lack of planning and mystification of purposes certainly doesn’t sit well with many people- like me.
And let me share why.

I came into the country a few days ago, I sold my dollars and brought cash at Delhi Airport from Thomas Cook (I have the receipts if you require proof). I was given most of the money in 1000s and 500s. I then went on with life, conferences and work. Last evening, taking a flight in from Jaipur to Mumbai I found myself stuck. As a diabetic, at 8pm I have to take insulin and have some food. I walked up to the eatery at the airport and was politely refused service with a “We cannot take 500Rs or 1000Rs give us smaller denominations.”

Sanyia Kirpalani (right) with Fariyal Murad
Sanyia Kirpalani (right) with Fariyal Murad

As I had mere 50INR, I couldn’t buy anything to eat. I reached Mumbai on my delayed flight; it was 11.40pm. Hungry, tired and ill, I just wanted to take a taxi home. Reaching Meru Counter, again I was met with refusal to accept my money. As an NRI I didn’t have other payment apps they required for payment and they couldn’t facilitate credit cards either, so I was stuck. I walked up to the money exchange, they too were out of small denomination and couldn’t help. Upset, unwell and close to tears, I realised I wasn’t alone. Like me, there were many international tourists and NRIs travelling in.

They couldn’t even change 10Euros for taxis!!! They were simply told you have declared 1000 RS and 500 RS notes ‘worthless paper’ and as most exchanges didn’t have small denominations (even SBI) they wouldn’t get money.
Tch Tch Mr Modi. What were you thinking? Are we some Banana Republic? How were we supposed to get to our homes or hotels? Unable to reach out to anyone, a lot of us decided to leg it (walk) to our locations. At 00.44am in the night, with three bags, high sugar and fever, I walked. Tears rolled down my face, wondering that the very man India had elected to protect me had made me walk alone on the streets of Mumbai late at midnight. Thanking God for the others who were making this trip bearable, I whispered to myself “This too shall pass”

As I lived in South Mumbai, I knew it would be a long trek with 30Kilos of weight weighing me down. I wondered how others in Delhi, Kerala and other cities were faring. I said a prayer, even though my head hung in shame as I saw the guests who had come to visit India having to undergo this difficult experience for no fault of theirs. Did you, Mr Modi, keep your promise of Áthiti Devo Bhavo’? Mumbai, despite its coldness is a city of heart and soul. A lot of us got car rides from people who stopped to assist complete strangers. I was one of those lucky ones, sadly there were others who had to continue walking. The couple that gave me a ride, went out of their way to drop me home.

As I am in Mumbai for just a day to finish some work I am left adrift. You have suddenly, without warning closed down the banks for 2 days!! Bravo. Another inconvenience. Furthermore, it’s been close to 16 hours that I haven’t had food, as you made my rupees useless. No one seems to want to take this money. You have also made sure that I won’t be able to avail the service of the bank to deposit money and changing it for other denomination which can give me food and water. I don’t mind paying this price if you can truly weed out the evil that betrays my country. But Mr Modi, last evening speech gave no clarity on how you are going to address the major sources of black money nor did you show any foresight and planning whilst making our lives very inconvenient.

My house help Chayya came in today morning with some water from her home, she couldn’t give me any food, despite her good intentions. Do you know why? She too had a 500 note, from her meagre 15000 Rs per month income. Chayya cleans 4 houses works 15 hour days to make that money. She supports a drunk husband who doesn’t work and 3 growing children. She is more than distraught; she wanted my advice. For years, she has hidden money from this small amount for her daughter’s education which now amounts to a sizeable NON-TAXABLE 150000. As she is one of those unbankable ones, she used to stash her money in her home. Now her money has turned into mush. Hungry and hard pressed Chayya is unable to buy food for her family. For the next two days, they will go hungry.

She informs me there are many more like her many more in her slums will face the same fate. She explained “Bai, hum log to 500 rakhte hain aur thora thora chutta kar ke har din hum dal aata lekar khate hain.” Roughly translated ‘We generally take 500 a week out; every day we use it in bits to buy dal and flour for eating. We live on daily bases. Sadly, today they are dying on daily bases as there is no food to tide her over these few days. She asked if she should sell the cash she has hidden and lose 20%, as some broker in the slum is offering 800 Rupees (in 100 denomination) for 1000 RS. Neither can Chayya afford to go and stand in a line every month and get 10000 rupees. I wondered Mr Modi, have you not created a new spin machine for black money? By not ensuring women like Chayya are secure and don’t go to bed hungry for a decision of yours, are you not breaking your promises to the last mile Mr Modi?

Before I write this note, I have gone through your speech several times. You have neither addressed how you are going to block the major sources of black money (most of which is abroad), invested in properties, gold and such instruments. Honestly Mr Modi, who is going to hide their black money in 1000 Rupees notes? They have to be the small traders. The Ambanis and Tatas are way too shrewd to do it…. I am sure you and your wing man Mr Shah knows about it. With the devaluation of the Indian rupee by over 35-40% against global currencies, why would any black marketer use 1000Rs notes vs 1000US$ notes? How do you explain the flood of money with jewellers last night, as many rushed to buy gold against their useless 1000Rs and 500Rs note? This shows open distrust in India’s money.

I am not saying do not wash out the tides of black waves; I am merely asking you to think it through, don’t get after the small traders, show muscle and might and get after the big traders. Get after the boys who stash their money in BNI and Swiss Accounts. And If you think this is the honest wise way to do it- then ensure that your good ideas don’t get lost in implementation. For when you dilute your promises; you hurt the last mile and that is a no no. Voting for you isn’t like when they voted for Congresses Mrs Gandhi. They didn’t put their trust in BJP RSS nexus; they put their fate and trust in YOU.. Modiji for many your God. Nobody in the recent years has enjoyed that status. My humble request, amplify your ideas with well planned sincere initiatives that are well implemented.

And thank you dear friends and family, for when you learnt that I had faced difficulties, you have offered me money, warm food and safety drives. But this isn’t just about me… its about the many that will go hungry this weekend.
Thanks