UBI in India
February 6, 2017 10:21 PM   Subscribe

India's demonetisation pathway to universal basic income (alt) - "Well over 1bn Indians now have biometric identification cards, known as Aadhaar. The system can handle money, usually by diverting incoming payments to a bank account linked to an Aadhar number. A blast of cash to all citizens enrolled in the scheme would be a feasible way to distribute the money."

viz. Universal Basic Income: A Conversation With and Within the Mahatma [pdf; pg. 172 (188/335)]
If, as appears to be the case, that thinkers on both the extreme left and right have all become its votaries, then UBI is a powerful idea whose time even if not ripe for implementation is ripe for serious discussion. One can easily imagine the Mahatma as fair mediator, deliberating and examining both sides of the argument carefully. The Mahatma as the embodiment of universal moral conscience would have seen the possibility of UBI in achieving the outcomes he so deeply cared about and fought for all his life. But the Mahatma as moralist would have had doubts because of seeing uncompensated rewards as harming responsibility and effort. As a fiscal conservative he would permit UBI only if convinced that macro-economic stability would not be jeopardized. Recognizing the difficulty of exit, the Mahatma as astute political observer would have anxieties about UBI as being just another add-on government programme. But on balance he may have given the go-ahead to the UBI.
  • UBIndia: a 'raging new idea' whose time has probably not yet come - "The risk of UBI just becoming 'another add-on government programme' (the subtext being: which India cannot afford) is real. The full report is worth reading in full too since it does a decent job of rounding up the pros and cons of a Universal Basic Income for India. Although India is rather poorer than other countries which have considered a UBI, the pros are obvious when you consider the myriad problems that India faces, most pertinently: [1] Its massive poverty problems [2] Its extremely leaky and inefficient welfare networks — the poorest states don't receive adequate funding and the poorest within the states don't get access to the schemes aimed at helping them. You also have to take into account the strides India has made with regards to financial inclusion and digitisation — making direct cash transfers via, say, the biometric Aadhaar card a real if as yet unrealised possibility. That potential has been pushed ahead by India's painful decision to take 86 per cent of its currency out of circulation overnight in November."
  • India debates the case for a universal basic income - "Over a fifth of its population lives below the poverty line. The scheme outlined this week by the chief economic adviser to the Indian government, Arvind Subramanian, would cut that figure to less than 0.5% by transferring about $9 a month to all adult Indians. If doled out to everyone, that would cost around 6-7% of GDP; the 950 [central government run] welfare schemes soak up 5% of GDP."
  • Building State Capacity: Evidence from Biometric Smartcards in India - "We find that, while incompletely implemented, the new system delivered a faster, more predictable, and less corrupt NREGS payments process without adversely affecting program access... Overall, our results suggest that investing in secure payments infrastructure can significantly enhance 'state capacity' to implement welfare programs in developing countries."
  • How is the biomarker ID aid plan going in India? - "One broader lesson here is that developing nations are not merely copying and applying the inventions of the West, but innovating on their own. But a lot of their innovations take labor-intensive rather than capital-intensive forms, and thus they do not always look like innovations to our sometimes ethnocentric eyes."
  • What the U.S. can learn from India's move toward a cashless society - "India may have leapfrogged the U.S. technology industry with simple and practical innovations and massive grunt work. It has built a digital infrastructure that will soon process billions more transactions than bitcoin ever has. With this, India will skip two generations of financial technologies and build something as monumental as China's Great Wall and America's interstate highways."
  • India's demonetization is tightening the payment startup race, but the winner could well be the Indian government - "The Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM), a digital payment app launched by Modi on Dec. 30, is already hot property on the Google play store, with a staggering 5 million downloads so far. In the four days since its launch, BHIM has recorded 700,000 transactions. And the government has yet to launch its iOS version. 'The time is not far when all the transactions that we used to perform using coins and notes would be done through BHIM', Modi said while launching the app."
  • Developed by the National Payments Corp. of India, BHIM is based on the existing Unified Payments Interface (UPI). However, unlike Paytm or Mobikwik, BHIM is not an e-wallet, but only a payments platform. The app makes it easier to access bank accounts to make payments and transfer and receive money. It is linked to over 30 private and public sector banks.

    Once installed, it enables payments through phone numbers backed by the UPI or through the Indian Financial System Code and Mobile Money Identifier to even those users who don’t have a UPI-based bank account. It also provides the option of creating a quick response code. Once generated by a customer, this code can be used by the retailer to make the deduction from the BHIM user’s account. It does, however, involve a cap of Rs10,000 per transaction. There is also a cap of Rs20,000 per 24 hours.

    BHIM will eventually become Aadhaar-based, wherein fingerprint impression-based transactions will be possible. For now, it is also being criticized for the numerous bugs in the app and a lack of support for most Indian languages.
  • India working to replace cash with biometric e-payment - "The chief executive of India's leading economic development agency [said] that the country could introduce biometric payments within three years, thereby eliminating the need for cash and typical electronic payment methods, including: automated teller machines, along with debit and credit cards."
also btw...
posted by kliuless (41 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
I'm just going to leave this here as a corrective to the breathless hype.
Big Data, Bigger Lies

The rationale for demonetization has been changing by the day as Modi never did get the universal acclaim he had expected to be greeted with. The fact that very little attention is being paid to the privacy or security aspects of this move is very troubling. It is not a trivial investment for the rural poor (most of whom do not have access to banks) to buy devices to join the cashless society that's being touted as the future and the technocrats seem to have no clue as to the impact on the poor or don't seem to have any curiosity either.
posted by viramamunivar at 11:34 PM on February 6, 2017 [26 favorites]

It's interesting that India is engaging in the sort of large-scale technocratic-authoritarian social experiments that we usually see from the Chinese state. At the least it'll be interesting case studies for the U.S. government to glance at and ignore.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:40 PM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Guess who's behind India’s brutal experiment of abolishing most cash?!

Not even four weeks before this assault on Indians, USAID had announced the establishment of „Catalyst: Inclusive Cashless Payment Partnership“, with the goal of effecting a quantum leap in cashless payment in India. The press statement of October 14 says that Catalyst “marks the next phase of partnership between USAID and Ministry of Finance to facilitate universal financial inclusion”. The statement does not show up in the list of press statements on the website of USAID (anymore?). Not even filtering statements with the word “India” would bring it up. To find it, you seem to have to know it exists, or stumble upon it in a web search. Indeed, this and other statements, which seemed rather boring before, have become a lot more interesting and revealing after November 8.


Who are the institutions behind this decisive attack on cash? Upon the presentation of the Beyond-Cash-report, USAID declared: “Over 35 key Indian, American and international organizations have partnered with the Ministry of Finance and USAID on this initiative.” On the ominously named website http://cashlesscatalyst.org/ one can see that they are mostly IT- and payment service providers who want to make money from digital payments or from the associated data generation on users. Many are veterans of,what a high-ranking official of Deutsche Bundesbank called the “war of interested financial institutions on cash” (in German). They include the Better Than Cash Alliance, the Gates Foundation (Microsoft), Omidyar Network (eBay), the Dell Foundation Mastercard, Visa, Metlife Foundation.

A well-kept open secret

posted by tenderly at 2:09 AM on February 7, 2017 [15 favorites]

the Gates Foundation (Microsoft)

That is a logical leap that makes me wince considerably.
posted by jaduncan at 3:36 AM on February 7, 2017 [11 favorites]

There may not be a direct link to Mickeysoft from the Gates Foundation, or any particular nefarious intent, but it is not surprising that a foundation set up by a technocrat will go for technocratic solutions that could also benefit his old company. That's the danger of private charity on this scale: no democratic oversight and a tendency to let he who pays, play, without looking at the consequences.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:25 AM on February 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

This may be in one of the links, but this conversation seems incomplete without mention of 1 rupee accounts.
posted by PMdixon at 4:38 AM on February 7, 2017 [6 favorites]

I can see many downsides to a completely cashless economy, and few upsides.

I live in the sixth largest economy in the world. I live in one of the largest cities in that country, and within one of the wealthier suburbs of that city. There are several businesses I use nearly every week which are cash-only – and not for any dubious reason but because it makes economic sense for them to be that way. Why would they want to switch to cash-free transactions? Why should they?

In a country with the wealth disparities of India, where rural communities can lack what we in the West would consider essential infrastructure, I can't see how this provides any benefit. What's to stop a complementary currency filling in the gap?
posted by mushhushshu at 4:44 AM on February 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

I don't want to live in a cashless society, but universal income is something which even some right wingers see as inevitable. They are only waking up, of course, because their middle class white collar careers are in danger.

I'm not even sure total cashless is even possible. The official coin of the realm might be digital, but I think there will always be some form of black market currency, both electronic and material.
posted by Beholder at 5:18 AM on February 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

...by transferring about $9 a month to all adult Indians.
That seems ineffectively tiny, but I have no basis for conversion. What is the purchasing power of $9 in India?
posted by Thorzdad at 5:19 AM on February 7, 2017

That seems ineffectively tiny, but I have no basis for conversion. What is the purchasing power of $9 in India?

From the first link:
There is now a proposed amount: 7,620 rupees ($113) a year. Equivalent to less than a month’s pay at the minimum wage in a city, it is well short of what anyone might need to lead a life of leisure. But it would cut absolute poverty from 22% to less than 0.5%.
posted by beagle at 5:59 AM on February 7, 2017 [12 favorites]

There's so much garbage in the "news media" in India (hijacked since liberalization) that I'm not going to wade into this topic beyond thanking tenderly for opening my eyes.

This made my heart twinge - brave stories from the last mile of the cash economy
posted by infini at 6:02 AM on February 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

well, first we do away with cash and make people carry these little cards - then we institute a universal income to be paid out with those little cards

and then anyone who doesn't "behave" can find themselves without a working card

no, thank you
posted by pyramid termite at 6:57 AM on February 7, 2017 [16 favorites]

It's the Mark of the Beast.
posted by jfwlucy at 7:37 AM on February 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

The solution to every problem is more and more financial services, even for people who have no money.
posted by 445supermag at 7:39 AM on February 7, 2017 [9 favorites]

Except that the Aadhar database is anonymized and only serves for identity. India's history of caste based discrimination, among other things, makes people aware of the sensitivities of the above comments.
posted by infini at 8:15 AM on February 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

UBI is one of those things that sounds good and just to the rationally minded, who tend to think about process, mechanism, and optimality--but not the will to power. I mean, who's going to run such a system? The same financial geniuses who floated a trillion in bad loans, crashed the global economy in 2008, support austerity for the masses so that the banks can remain solvent, want to crack open social security and undermine entitlements in general, and, of course, weaken labor even more than it currently is.

And UBI is not logically connected to doing away with cash. But one's thing for sure: you can't easily impose the much-salivated-over "solution" to bank insolvency that is negative interest rates if people can hide their money in their mattress. No, you have to have them by the balls, with all of their private wealth in the hands of the ruling elites. No more getting paid under the table for you!

Under such a system, we could be sure that we'd all get exactly what our betters want to give us, and no more. After all, they only want to help us avoid the moral hazard of having more than we deserve.
posted by mondo dentro at 8:27 AM on February 7, 2017 [6 favorites]

But one's thing for sure: you can't easily impose the much-salivated-over "solution" to bank insolvency that is negative interest rates if people can hide their money in their mattress.

You have no idea what you're talking about.

Banks loathe the idea of negative interest rates because they don't just shift the yield curve down they compress it. If you don't know what the yield curve is or why banks care about it you don't know enough about money to have an opinion on interest rate policy.

Storing physical monetary instruments is not costless. Cash has a baked in negative nominal interest rate, just one that varies widely both across time and holders.
posted by PMdixon at 8:38 AM on February 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Banks loathe the idea of negative interest rates because they don't just shift the yield curve down they compress it.

Hey, snarkmeister--as a citizen I have to have an opinion about such things, even if I'm not an expert. Just like you have to have an opinion about climate change and GMO's. So enlighten me.

You know what I suspect banks hate even more than negative interest rates? Debt forgiveness.
posted by mondo dentro at 8:51 AM on February 7, 2017

Hey, snarkmeister--as a citizen I have to have an opinion about such things

This thread is about India. And India's government policies. And India's elected leader. I am an Indian citizen. I have an opinion here.

Who are you?
posted by infini at 8:57 AM on February 7, 2017 [9 favorites]

I'm not really sure about the connection between cashlessness and negative interest rate policy. There are plenty of examples of central banks instituting negative interest rates even in economies that are very cash-centric. (Switzerland and Germany, for instance, are much more cash-based than the US, and both countries have had negative interest rates at least at the central / interbank level in the recent past.)

The ability to hoard small amounts of cash really isn't holding anyone back from negative rates. Unless you print very large denomination bills, hoarding a significant amount of cash is quite hard.

I guess there's a lower bound on the negative interest rates that you could target, formed by the fees that a depository (that is to say, not a bank, but the older style of institution which literally just keeps your valuables in a vault, and perhaps allows withdrawals of fungible valuables from different locations) would charge on cash, which are linked to the actual costs of securely storing pieces of paper in a big steel box. But these costs, if gold and silver depository fees are any indication, are pretty high, and they'd be even higher for paper money assuming no very large denomination bills.

From a governmental perspective, the big benefit of cashlessness seems to be tax enforcement. If everyone is sending money to each other via some sort of electronic system, it becomes pretty easy to enforce income or transaction taxes which are very challenging in a cash economy. At the very least it requires anyone engaging in an under-the-table tax avoidance scheme to get into money laundering, which is a pretty significant bar raise from just pocketing cash and spending it later.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:10 AM on February 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

This thread is about India.

No, it's about UBI and demonitization, as being implemented in India. To the best of my knowledge, this is the most significant attempt to move in this direction currently on the planet. Are you saying there are no general insights to be gained from it, that might be of interest to people in other countries?
posted by mondo dentro at 9:34 AM on February 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

So enlighten me.
He who lives in a house designed by Matt Taibbi shouldn't throw 'snarkmeister' stones.

The yield curve is the term for the structure of interest rates as a function of the length of the loan. In general it slopes upwards - as you want to wait longer to pay me back I'm going to demand a higher interest rate, for multiple reasons. The thing that makes something more or less bank-like is the extent to which it's business model relies on profiting from the spread between long and short term interest rates - borrow short term, lend long term, capture the difference in interest rates. This is called net interest margin (NIM) and it's what makes banks more than just safety deposit boxes. (Obviously if they stop being able to roll over the short term liabilities on favorable terms the business model has a problem. This is why bank runs are a problem.)

We can talk about shifting the yield curve - changing all the rates by the same amount. This leaves NIM unchanged. We can also talk about compressing the yield curve - reducing the difference between short and long term rates. Obviously this reduces NIM. Negative interest rate policy, to the extent we have data points to meaningfully judge, does a lot more compression than shifting. That is, it cuts into the part of the profits that makes a bank a bank.

So, as I said, (commercial) banks loathe negative interest rate policy, and central banks tend to be fairly sensitive to that, whether or not they are mandated to be.

You know what I suspect banks hate even more than negative interest rates? Debt forgiveness.

That's true given a lot of conditions attached but I don't especially see the relevance.

(To the extent that anything is about anything then this thread is about the details of Indian monetary policy and its implementation, the latter in a broad sense but one that is very much anchored in the Indian context. So I'll take the cue from infini and step off.)
posted by PMdixon at 10:24 AM on February 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

Guess who's behind India’s brutal experiment of abolishing most cash?!

Narendra Modi.

viramamunivar's link to Economic & Political Weekly states this very emphatically in the second sentence. Using the, uh, German word for leader.

I think that it's fairly simple to see from that article that the best thing to do is step back from your preconceptions about what demonetisation means in a developed economy and think what it's like in an economy where there's such a low prevalence of banking, and where the policy needs to stretch from subsistence farmers to the urban office-working middle classes. It's a very different kettle of fish.
posted by ambrosen at 10:31 AM on February 7, 2017 [6 favorites]

It is not a trivial investment for the rural poor (most of whom do not have access to banks) to buy devices to join the cashless society that's being touted as the future

Their BHIM app is supposedly able to take care of this issue by not requiring a device on the customer side. And Android phones are pretty cheap.

The BHIM app is supposed to support Aadhaar-based payments, where transactions will be possible with just a fingerprint impression, but that facility is yet to start.
posted by infini at 10:58 AM on February 7, 2017

and the technocrats seem to have no clue as to the impact on the poor or don't seem to have any curiosity either.

This is a huge issue in it's own right. I've been ranting about it for almost a decade since I was asked to review the Nokia Life Tools thingie (not an app, technically I suppose) meant for this same target audience who are suffering the most from the demonetization. Boy, did they squeal when I pointed out the lack of respect evident in the language of the menu screens.

So much of this has to do with the hidden apartheid of India's caste and thus class/income divide, which is further exaggerated in the rural/urban context. In 2007 I was introduced to a national scale bank for the possibility of interesting them in considering mobile based solutions to the banking problem. The privileged banker sneered and said they need the exercise when I reached the slide that pointed out that in rural India, one bank branch was often shared among 5 or 7 entire villages.

That's the attitude. The ubiquitious poor are invisible. They never are to the casual visitor, the Thomas Friedman, or the photojournalist for Oxfam. But for the Babus in their airconditioned cars, accustomed to tinted windows, they don't (they cannot afford to) exist.

These attitudes of who has the right to education, to justice, to services, then translate into how you think about product design of apps and devices and software.

Bengaluru's elite just wants to design the next shiny shiny for Silicon Valley or, now, Shanghai.

And so you get this attitude.

Which is why the design of the Aadhaar system (linked in one of my comments above) caught my attention. They've given thought to the needs of the illiterate, the ones without a fixed address, or any paperwork (hence a section for a referral to prove you're you rather than an ID of some sort) and myriads of other tiny details that shows the care and thoughtfulness given to the traditional barriers the formal economy throws up against the informal, and then claims that they are avoiding registration and taxes. A pox upon top down enforced formalization. And every international development INGO that promotes and funds it.
posted by infini at 11:10 AM on February 7, 2017 [13 favorites]

Bengaluru's elite just wants to design the next shiny shiny for Silicon Valley or, now, Shanghai.

With H-1B reform and other protectionist policies coming in play in the U.S., it's only a matter of time before the Indian technorati decide to focus on their own Silicon Valley, much like Chinas has been doing with Zhongguancun.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:29 AM on February 7, 2017

nooo, they've prepared for H1B reform for years.... by nearshoring to Mexico *weeps LOLtears*
posted by infini at 11:38 AM on February 7, 2017

There was a recent change in India to invalidate the most common bank notes, apparently to reduce corruption. This lead to chaos, fatalities and massive uncertainty about how to pay for basic goods. The Bugle did a recent episode primarily focusing on this (starts about 10 minutes into the programme).

I wonder what percentage of the Indian population actually have a bank account? Does Aadhaar work if you don't have a bank account? Also, is there any solution for the sections of the population who cannot afford a phone or gadget to use this tool, or are illiterate, or don't speak the specified language?

How can a UBI based on a cashless technology work for the population who deal universally in cash?
posted by Stark at 12:38 PM on February 7, 2017

Man if only there were someone who had gathered some links addressing those questions.
posted by PMdixon at 1:34 PM on February 7, 2017 [8 favorites]

How can a UBI based on a cashless technology work for the population who deal universally in cash?

Step 1: invalidate 90% of the cash. Done, massive economic and political pain accepted.
Step 2: make a system where people can actually pay for things again, accepting the massive hassle for the poor who have to carry massive bundles of low denomination notes (or trade with gold, but that doesn't hugely scale).
Step 3: don't revalidate the cash, watching as people who don't want to carry a wheelbarrow change their habits.
Step 4: invalidate the small denominations when not many holdouts still exist.

They've already ripped off the bandaid in step 1 and are approaching step 2, reversing now would be a humiliation for Modi and a tacit admission that what he did was pointless. Neither of those things seem like Modi or the party would hugely like. Since they can't really go back, it's almost certainly going to be made to work, ish, one way or the other.*

* assuming Modi doesn't start losing elections, as in that case reintroduction of cash might well be a pledge of whoever does win.
posted by jaduncan at 3:53 PM on February 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Remember those brutal 1970s recessions?

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/TCU shows our current capacity utilization is right at those levels now, 6 years into our so-called recovery.

Once we went fiat, the only thing holding us back from blowing out the bucks was general probity and protection of "savers" aka the rich.

But giving everyone a Fed Card with $1000 of use-it-or-lose it money on it each month would certainly be an interesting experiment -- in seeing how much slack is really in our system.

ISTM that our big-box retailers would love to move more stuff, and it also seems their supply chains are perfectly able to keep the shelves stocked. The only difficulty is the average consumer is still kinda tapped out, what with flat real wages and so much uncertainty in the housing, education, and health care sectors.

Which reminds me, this graph:


shows how housing has risen from ~20% of wages to 30% now, healthcare from 5% to over 25%, and higher education from ~1% to almost 5% (and higher since it's lower-wage earners on the hook for these expenses).

UBI in the US isn't going to fix any of these issues, since they're actually driven by rent-seeking, profits from consumers' money bidding up the cost of a relatively fixed supply of goods and services.

Just throw more money at the system, we'll get higher prices in return:

posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 8:38 PM on February 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Apologies for restating questions that are discussed above; I thought the Bugle discussion may add a bit of colour to this topic. However, I may have missed the part where someone explains how to resolve the problems of people not having bank accounts or being illiterate? Any solution that relates to a UBI presumably has to work for 100% of the population; 98% would leave over 25 million people out of pocket in India.

Suggesting that people will "change their habits" as using cash becomes more difficult ignores those for whom changing habits is essentially impossible, either due to geography, education or infrastructure.

One example of the difficulties of implementing things like this is the person who tried to set himself on fire in a bank as a result of "ripping off the bandaid".
posted by Stark at 1:44 AM on February 8, 2017

Stark, the documents available on the Aadhaar system - even glancing through the table of contents - might be a great start for your questions.


The product document's introduction chapter

The executive summary and Chapter 6 of the Strategy document.

Remember, none of these initiatives were implemented in isolation - whatever happened with demonetization happened as the next step after the successful implementation (more or less, given scale of ecosystem in the billions) of the Aadhaar system.

The Aadhar is NOT an app or a financial service. It is a unique identity for the Indian citizen. And Aadhar is positioned as a platform based on identity.

Now, given such a platform, what can we do with it? is the next question asked by the planners.

Thus, it makes sense to understand the underpinnings of that system first, and then consider the questions as framed because the integration of the understanding of Aadhaar is expected to change the framing of the questions.
posted by infini at 2:56 AM on February 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

for example: Does Aadhaar work if you don't have a bank account?

Yes. Your identity exists separate from your financial standing, in and of itself. However, having such an identity improves your chances for financial inclusion even in the absence of other paperwork, as is common in the informal and rural sectors.
posted by infini at 2:58 AM on February 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

One example of the difficulties of implementing things like this is the person who tried to set himself on fire in a bank as a result of "ripping off the bandaid".

I was in Nepal when this decision came in. I think it was horrific. I also think it's precisely how horrific it's been that means Modi can't go back. He's crossed the Rubicon, burned his bridges, pick your metaphor. In short, if it doesn't work out he is grade A fucked.
posted by jaduncan at 4:19 AM on February 8, 2017

That's actually debatable. Just spoke to my designer/researcher who is based in Bangalore and she was saying that it's been hard to get people to give their feedback or opinions on this move, especially if they are pro Modi, because they tend to say things to the effect of "it hurts, but it's for the greater good"

You'll see that pattern in these interviews by IndiaSpend as well.
posted by infini at 4:37 AM on February 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Why tribals are more unprepared than other Indians for the cashless era

A small group of men and women sat on a raised platform, as a child played on a makeshift swing hanging from a tree. To one side lay farmland, to the other, houses. This was the village of Footiya, in the MP district of Jhabua, along the border with Gujarat. Footiya is inhabited predominantly by adivasis, or tribals, and does not have a post office, a cooperative or commercial bank, an ATM, or a public phone booth, according to information from Census 2011.

Zumla (he uses only one name), a tall, well-built man with a white moustache, also sat under the tree. He said he had had a bank account for years now, but rarely used it because he had little money to deposit into the account, and because going to a bank took very long. It takes him an hour to walk to the nearest bank branch, about 6 km from the village, he said.

“I am anguthachaap,” Zumla, a Bhil tribal with a white turban, added in Hindi, using the term for a thumb impression, a sign of illiteracy. “I use a chequebook (he meant passbook) to put in money and take out money, but I don’t know how to use an ATM,” said Zumla, dressed in a grey shirt paired with a white dhoti tied above the knees. “If I can’t read, how do I know what buttons to press?”

posted by infini at 4:53 AM on February 8, 2017

That's actually debatable. Just spoke to my designer/researcher who is based in Bangalore and she was saying that it's been hard to get people to give their feedback or opinions on this move, especially if they are pro Modi, because they tend to say things to the effect of "it hurts, but it's for the greater good"

Yeah - I don't have an insider's view of the politics here but, eg, the head of the RBI was replaced two months before demonetization, so intentionally or not that would seem to set the new governor up as a possible scapegoat. "I tried but the bureaucrats thwarted me" or something. (They might, too - it's questionable whether the RBI will, can, or should stop exchanging the 'demonetized' notes for new ones - the thing about fiat money is you can't really fuck with the fiat or it might stop being money) It's pretty easy for a politician, especially one in Modi's vein, to find an excuse for failed policies that will be acceptable to their base of support.
posted by PMdixon at 5:30 AM on February 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Tata's former chairman Ratan Tata (the poor mans car) and Nandan Nilekani (ex Infosys and founding Chairman Aadhaar) just set up a financial services company for the masses. I'm betting the policy doesn't fail. It might sputter and spark, like every old engine all over India, but jugaad might make it work after all.

let's see. I'm happy to place a bet, for a medium term. the scale of billions of people is too large in a screaming democracy for a short term result that's neat and clean
posted by infini at 7:00 AM on February 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh hey! I'm going to be getting my Aadhar within a month.
posted by infini at 12:44 AM on February 15, 2017

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