'Ultimately if your aim is that you need to be able to deal with a security situation, you need to deal with a black money situation, you need to deal with a counterfeiting situation then, to that extent, I think everyone will need to able to tolerate a little bit of inconvenience.'
Best-selling author Ashwin Sanghi, whose latest book 13 Steps To Bloody Good Wealth has just hit the stands, was just as stunned as every other Indian as he heard Prime Minister Narendra Modi launch a surgical strike against black money by demonetising Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.
in an interview with Savera R Someshwar/Rediff.com, the author, who has been nominated for the Crossword Book Awards, calls Modi's move a 'win-win' decision.
The prime minister sprang a surprise on the nation. What did you think of his announcement?
I think it is bold. Courageous. Innovative.
Look at it this way. You have, in one shot, taken care of three or four major issues.
One, you have created a situation where people will have to necessarily exchange Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, at which point they would have some explaining to do in terms of the source of the money. To that extent, you are cleaning up the black money economy.
Two, given the fact that there has been a lot of counterfeiting and a lot of this money does end up getting used in terrorist activity, you are hopefully creating a more secure environment for the country.
At a third level, I am told the new Rs 2,000 notes are technologically advanced and embedded with nano chips. Which means that, in the future, you would be able to track where these notes are available in high concentrations.
I think it is a win-win in all directions except for the fact that, obviously, there will be temporary inconvenience for ordinary people like you and me.
The only thing I am not able to understand is the timing of this announcement. For the life of me, I cannot still figure this out the need to announce it today in particular and at this particular time. Was it that he was specifically waiting for the festive season to get over?
Do you think people will support the prime minister’s decision?
For years, we have been hearing that a huge amount of counterfeit currency continues to flow in India from the neighbouring countries. At some point in time, the government did need to address this issue.
What really caught all of us by surprise is probably the fact that it was so secret and so sudden. Hats off to government for achieving that because, normally, we are never able to pull off something of this sort without advance leaks happening. The mere fact that it was pulled off in the way it was is remarkable.
If this had been leaked, it would have defeated the very purpose.
You know that old proverb: Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead. It either remains with a very, very select bunch of people otherwise why go through this whole exercise of creating new currency notes because all you need is one person outside the inner circle knowing something like this and you would have had, in the last seven days or 10 days a run on old currency notes. I do not think this was known.
Do you believe this is going to affect the common man more than the rich?
I do not think so. It is not a rich-poor situation.
Those who have large stockpiles of unaccounted cash are stuck in a situation where they are wondering what the hell to do because they have no possible outlet where they can send out that cash.
At some point of time, they could have considered buying gold. But, today, no gold dealer will give you gold against old currency notes because he will have to explain it from where he got it from.
For all practical purposes, if you have large amount of cash, you have to have a clear-cut source from where you have either drawn that cash or from where you have received it. A typical retail establishment would be collecting a certain amount of cash every day. Now, obviously, at the end of the day, there would be a certain amount of cash lying in the cash box. I do not think there is an issue with that, no matter how large amount is the amount of cash may be.
The problem will be faced by individuals holding large amounts of cash which are unaccounted. That’s the long term issue the government seems to be targeting.
Do you think this will affect the real estate transactions?
I believe the amount of cash in real estate had been declining as it is. One has been observing it in terms of the overall sluggishness in the real estate market over the last year or two.
The fact is that real estate transactions were few and far between. When they happened, they weren’t necessarily happening at the valuations at which they were happening three years and five years ago.
In the short term, there will an impact but I would imagine that every market reacts to such things and essentially self-adjusts.
Look at it this way, ultimately if your aim is that you need to be able to deal with a security situation, you need to deal with a black money situation, you need to deal with a counterfeiting situation then, to that extent, I think everyone will need to able to tolerate a little bit of inconvenience.
Will this scenario play itself out in one of your future books?
(Laughs) Actually, if you remember, in The Sialkot Saga, you will find that there is a particular scene in which Abdul dada is actually sitting on a sack of cash, smoking cigarettes that have been hand-rolled from thousand rupee notes which have just been demonetised.