Indian 500 and 1,000 Rupee Note Demonetisation

2016 Indian banknote demonetisation
Queue at Bank to Exchange INR 500 and 1000 Notes - Salt Lake City - Kolkata 2016-11-10 02103.jpg
Queues outside a bank to exchange INR500 and INR1000 banknotes in Birganj, Kolkata on 10 November 2016
Date 8 November 2016
Time 20:15 IST (14:45 UTC)
Location India
Independent stats: 100 dead as of 8 December 2016[1]

On 8 November 2016, the Government of India announced the demonetisation of all INR500 and INR1000 banknotes of the Mahatma Gandhi Series.[2] The government claimed that the action would curtail the shadow economy and crack down on the use of illicit and counterfeit cash to fund illegal activity and terrorism.[3][4] The sudden nature of the announcement and the prolonged cash shortages in the weeks that followed created significant disruption throughout the economy, threatening economic output.[5][6][7]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the demonetisation in an unscheduled live televised address at 20:00 Indian Standard Time (IST) on 8 November.[8][9] In the announcement, PM Modi declared that use of all INR500 and INR1000 banknotes of the Mahatma Gandhi Series would be invalid past midnight, and announced the issuance of new INR500 and INR2000 banknotes of the Mahatma Gandhi New Series in exchange for the old banknotes.

The BSE SENSEX and NIFTY 50 stock indices fell over 6 percent on the day after the announcement.[10] In the days following the demonetisation, the country faced severe cash shortages with severe detrimental effects across the economy.[11][12][13] People seeking to exchange their bank notes had to stand in lengthy queues, and several deaths were linked to the rush to exchange cash.[14][15]

Initially, the move received support from several bankers as well as from some international commentators. The move has also been criticised as poorly planned and unfair, and was met with protests, litigation, and strikes against the government in several places across India. Debates also took place concerning the move in both houses of parliament.[16][17][18][19] The move reduced the country's industrial production and its GDP growth rate[].

By the end of August 2017, 99% of the banned currency had been deposited in banks: only approximately INR14,000 crore of the total demonetised currency had been discarded, leading analysts to state that the effort had failed to remove black money from the economy.[20][21] In June 2018, Reuters reported that all the farmers they had spoken to in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh said that demonetization had made things worse for them.[22]


The Indian government had demonetised bank notes on two prior occasions--once in 1946 and then in 1978--and in both cases, the goal was to combat tax evasion by "black money" held outside the formal economic system.[23] In 1946, the pre-independence government hoped demonetisation would penalise Indian businesses that were concealing the fortunes amassed supplying the Allies in World War II.[23] In 1978, the Janata Party coalition government demonetised banknotes of 1000, 5000 and 10,000 rupees, again in the hopes of curbing counterfeit money and black money.[24]

In 2012, the Central Board of Direct Taxes had recommended against demonetisation, saying in a report that "demonetisation may not be a solution for tackling black money or shadow economy, which is largely held in the form of benami properties, bullion and jewellery."[25][26] According to data from income tax probes, black money holders kept only 6% or less of their wealth as cash, suggesting that targeting this cash would not be a successful strategy.[27]

On 28 October 2016 the total banknotes in circulation in India were valued at (US$250 billion); what proportion of this derived from INR500 and INR1,000 banknotes was unknown. In its annual report of March 2016, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) stated that total bank notes in circulation valued (US$230 billion) of which nearly 86% (around (US$200 billion)) derived from INR500 and INR1,000 banknotes. In terms of volume, the report stated that 24% (around 22.03 billion) of the total 9026.6 crore (90.26 billion) banknotes in circulation were INR500 and INR1,000 banknotes.[28]

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had previously expressed opposition to demonetisation. BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi had said in 2014 that members of the public who were often illiterate and had no access to banking facilities would be adversely affected by such a policy.[29][30][31][32]

Demonetisation process

Demonetized INR500 of the Mahatma Gandhi Series
Demonetized INR1,000 of the Mahatma Gandhi Series

The plan to demonetise the INR500 and INR1000 banknotes was initiated between six and ten months before it was announced, and was kept confidential, with only ten people being completely aware of it. The preparations for printing new INR500 and INR2000 bank notes began in early May 2016. The Union cabinet was informed about the plan on 8 November 2016 in a meeting called by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.[33]

Public announcement

On 8 November 2016, Modi announced the demonetisation in an unscheduled live national televised address at 20:15 Indian Standard Time.[8][9] In the announcement, Modi declared circulation of all INR500 and INR1,000 banknotes of the Mahatma Gandhi Series as invalid effective from the midnight of the same day, and announced the issuance of new INR500 and INR2,000 banknotes of the Mahatma Gandhi New Series in exchange for the old notes.[34]

After Modi's announcement, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Urjit Patel, and Economic Affairs Secretary, Shaktikanta Das, stated that while the supply of notes of all denominations had increased by 40 percent between 2011 and 2016, the INR500 and INR1,000 banknotes increased by 76 percent and 109 percent, respectively, owing to forgery. They said that forged cash was used to fund terrorist activities, and that the demonetisation was meant to counter this.[35] After demonetisation, only 0.0035% of the INR1,000 banknotes were found to be fake.[36]

Patel also stated that the decision had been made about six months ago, and the printing of new banknotes of denomination INR500 and INR2,000 had already started. However, only the top members of the government, security agencies and the central bank were aware of the move. But media had reported in October 2016 about the introduction of INR2,000 denomination well before the official announcement by RBI. This statement has led to much debate, because the Reserve Bank governor six months before the announcement was Raghuram Rajan, while the new banknotes have the signature of the newly appointed governor, Urjit Patel.[37][38]

Exchange of old notes

People gathered at ATM of Axis Bank on 16 November 2016 in Mehsana, Gujarat to withdraw cash following deposit of demonetised currency notes in bank on 15 November 2016.

The Reserve Bank of India stipulated that the demonetised notes could be deposited with banks over a period of fifty days until 30 December 2016. The banknotes could also be exchanged for legal tender over the counter at all banks. The limit for such exchange was INR4,000 per person from 8 to 13 November, was increased to INR4,500 per person from 14 to 17 November, reduced to INR2,000 per person from 18 November.[2][39][40][41] International airports also facilitated an exchange of notes for foreign tourists and out-bound travelers, amounting to a total value of INR5,000 per person.[42] The exchange of banknotes was stopped completely on 25 November: Modi had previously stated that the volume of exchange would be increased after 24 November.[43]

Withdrawal limits

Cash withdrawals from bank accounts were restricted to INR10,000 per day and INR20,000 per week per account from 10 to 13 November.[2] This limit was increased to INR24,000 per week from 14 November 2016.[39][40]

A daily limit on withdrawals from ATMs was also imposed varying from INR2,000 per day till 14 November,[44] and INR2,500 per day till 31 December.[39][40] This limit was increased to INR4,500 per day from 1 January,[45] and again to INR10,000 from 16 January 2017. Limits placed vide the circulars cited above on cash withdrawals from Current accounts/ Cash credit accounts/ Overdraft accounts stand withdrawn with immediate effect. RBI increased the withdrawal limit from Savings Bank account to INR50,000 from the earlier INR24,000 on 20 February 2017 and then on 13 March 2017, it removed all withdrawal limits from Savings Bank Accounts.[46]

Under the revised guidelines issued on 17 November 2016, families were allowed to withdraw INR250,000 (INR2.5 lakh) for wedding expenses from one account provided it was KYC compliant. The rules were also changed for farmers who are permitted to withdraw INR25,000 per week from their accounts against crop loans.[41][47]


The Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Ordinance, 2016 was issued on 28 December 2016 ceasing the liability of the government for the banned bank notes, and also imposing fines on people found carrying out transactions with them after 8 November 2016; or holding more than ten of them after 30 December 2016. The ordinance also provided for the exchange of the bank notes after 30 December for non-resident citizens and others on a case by case basis.[48][49] Fuel pumps, government hospitals, railway and airline booking counters, state-government recognised dairies and ration stores, and crematoriums were allowed to accept the banned INR500 and INR1,000 bank notes until 2 December 2016.[50]

Information leaks

A fortnight before the official announcement, a news report in the Hindi daily Dainik Jagran quoting RBI sources speaking of the planned release of new 2000 rupee notes alongside withdrawal of 500 and 1000 rupee notes.[51][52] Similar news was reported in The Hindu Business Line on 21 October 2016, also describing a forthcoming 2000 rupee note and the possible withdrawal of 500 and 1000 rupee notes.[53] The chairman of the State Bank of India had also openly spoken in April 2016 about the possibility of demonetisation of INR500 and INR1000 notes.[54]

Prominent businessmen stated after the announcement of demonetisation that they had received prior warning of the move, allowing them to convert their money into smaller denominations.[55] A BJP MLA from Rajasthan, Bhawani Singh Rajawat, claimed in a video that wealthy businessmen were informed about the demonetisation before it occurred. He later denied the comments.[56][57] More than 30 politicians belonging to the BJP were arrested and investigated for having unaccounted money in the new 2000 rupee denomination.[58]

Initial reactions


The decision met with mixed initial reactions. Several bankers like Arundhati Bhattacharya (Chairperson of State Bank of India) and Chanda Kochhar (MD & CEO of ICICI Bank) appreciated the move in the sense that it would help curb black money.[59] Businessmen Anand Mahindra (Mahindra Group), Sajjan Jindal (JSW Group), Kunal Bahl (Snapdeal and FreeCharge) also supported the move adding that it would also accelerate e-commerce.[59] Infosys founder N. R. Narayana Murthy praised the move.[60][61]

The Indian National Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala welcomed the move but remained sceptical on the consequences that would follow.[62] Chief Minister of Bihar Nitish Kumar supported the move.[63][64][65] The demonetisation also got support from Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Nara Chandrababu Naidu.[66][67][68] Former Chief Election Commissioner of India S. Y. Quraishi said demonetisation could lead to long term electoral reforms.[69] Indian social activist Anna Hazare hailed demonetisation as a revolutionary step.[70][71][72] The former President of India Pranab Mukherjee welcomed the demonetisation move by calling it bold step.[73][74][75][76] The opinion of the masses varied both ways on micro-blogs and social media sites like Twitter.[77]

By and large, initial international response was positive which saw the move as a bold crackdown on corruption.[78][79][80]International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued a statement supporting Modi's efforts to fight corruption by the demonetisation policy.[78]

Chinese state media Global Times praised the move and termed it as "fierce fight against black money and corruption."[79] Former Prime Minister of Finland and Vice-President of European Commission Jyrki Katainen welcomed the demonetisation move stressing that bringing transparency will strengthen Indian economy.[81][82]BBC's South Asia Correspondent Justin Rowlatt in his article praised the move for its secrecy.[83]Tim Worstall termed the demonetisation as welcome macroeconomic effect in his article in Forbes magazine.[84] Swedish Minister of Enterprise Mikael Damberg supported the move by calling it bold decision.[80]

Indian-American economist Jagdish Bhagwati praised the demonetisation.[85]


The Indian Supreme Court while hearing one among a slew of cases filed against the sudden demonetisation decision in various courts,[86] observed that it "appears to be carpet bombing and not surgical strike" which government repeatedly claims it to be.[87]

Nobel laureate Indian economist Amartya Sen, severely criticised the demonetisation move calling it a "despotic action" among other things.[88][89][90]

Former Senior Vice-President and Chief Economist of the World Bank, Kaushik Basu, called it a 'major mistake' and said that the 'damage' is likely to be much greater than any possible benefits.[91][92][93]

Pronab Sen, former Chief Statistician and Planning Commission of India member, called it a "hollow move" since it did not really address any of the purported goals of tackling black money or fake currency.[94]

Prabhat Patnaik, a former professor of economics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi called the move 'witless' and 'anti-people'. He criticised the simple way in which black money was assumed as "a hoard of cash", saying that it would have little effect in eliminating "black activities" while "causing much hardship to common people."[95]

Noted economist and journalist, T. N. Ninan wrote in the Business Standard that demonetisation 'looks like a bad idea, badly executed on the basis of some half-baked notions'.[96]Deepak Parekh (Chairman of HDFC) had initially appreciated the decision to ban the INR 500 and INR 1000 notes, but later said that the move had derailed the economy, and expressed skepticism about its outcome.[97][98] Industrialist Rajiv Bajaj criticised the demonetisation, saying that not just the execution, but the concept of demonetisation was wrong in itself.[99]

Chief Ministers of several Indian states like Mamata Banerjee,[100]Arvind Kejriwal[101] and Pinarayi Vijayan[102] have criticised and led major protests against the decision in their states and in parliament. Initially, the move to demonetise and try to hinder black money was appreciated, but the manner in which it was carried out by causing hardships to common people was criticised.[103] A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in Madras High Court by M Seeni Ahamed, General Secretary of the Indian National League, to scrap the decision. The High Court dismissed the PIL stating that it could not interfere in monetary policies of the government.[104] Similar PILs were also filed in the Supreme Court of India.[105]Supreme Court of India is yet to decide on the matter. It is listed for hearing on 2 December 2016.

Several government ministers had declared before the demonetisation that they were holding large amounts of cash, including Arun Jaitley, who had more than 65 lakh rupees in cash. This led to speculation about whether and when the ministers had deposited the cash they held.[106][107]

Steve Forbes described the move as 'Sickening And Immoral'.[108] He stated that "What India has done is commit a massive theft of people's property without even the pretense of due process--a shocking move for a democratically elected government."[108] Nobel laureate Paul Krugman said that it is difficult to see gains from demonetisation, while there may be significant costs to it.[109]

The demonetisation also came in for sharp criticism from media outside India,[110][111] with the New York Times saying that the demonetisation was "atrociously planned" and that it did not appear to have combatted black money,[112][113] while an article in The Guardian stated that "Modi has brought havoc to India".[110] The Harvard Business Review called it "a case study in poor policy and even poorer execution"[114] The frequent change in the narrative on objectives of the demonetisation to its visible impact on the poorest of the poor made other critiques calling government's narrative as spins in view of the "pointless suffering on India's poorest."[115]

A Parliamentary panel report in April 2017 stated that rural households and honest taxpayers were the worst hit by demonetisation.[116] It said that it was not just the poor that suffered, but the manufacturing sector was impacted too.[117] According to the panel, demonetisation created significant disruption throughout economy, because it was carried out without prior study or research.[118][119]


A Congress led opposition which includes 13 political parties, opposed the current government on the demonetisation issue in the Winter Session of the Indian Parliament on 16 November 2016. The Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee also met the President Pranab Mukherjee to oppose the demonetisation.[120][121][122][123][124][125] The debate on demonetisation is known to be initiated by Indian National Congress[126] and Anand Sharma in the Rajya Sabha on 16 November 2016,[127][128] while Banerjee is known to be the first to oppose the current government on the demonetisation.[129]

On 16 November 2016, Banerjee led a rainbow delegation comprising political parties of Trinamool Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, BJP ally Shiv Sena, Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (of Hardik Patel) and National Conference to Rashtrapati Bhawan to protest against the decision to withdraw the INR500 and INR1000 banknotes. A memorandum was submitted to the President of India Pranab Mukherjee demanding rollback of the decision.[130] Outside the Parliament in a rally the same day, Saugata Roy, a member of parliament from the opposition Trinamool Congress Party, commented, "People are in utter distress, especially the informal sector is totally disrupted. Poor people, daily wage earners, they're all facing difficulty."[14]

In the demonetisation debate on the first day of the winter session of Parliament at the Rajya Sabha, Pramod Tiwari from the Indian National Congress compared Narendra Modi to Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler and Muammar Gaddafi.[131]Prem Chand Gupta, a member of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, questioned a statement of Modi from the unscheduled TV broadcast on 8 November, "If it was planned 10 months ago, how did RBI Governor Urjit Patel sign on new note?". Praful Patel, a member of the Nationalist Congress Party, stated that "the government was not even prepared to recalibrate the ATMs while announcing the move. People's suffering are unimaginable. Nobody is questioning the government's intention, but you are unprepared to execute the move". Later, the former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Mayawati Prabhu Das stated the situation to "a financial emergency", by saying "It looks as if Bharat has shut down." Also, Sitaram Yechury from Communist Party of India, questioned the government on the demonetisation move by stating "only 6% of black money in India is in cash to drive his point that demonetisation won't curb illicit wealth."[132]

On 17 November 2016, in a rally against demonetisation of INR500 and INR1000 notes, led by the Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal and his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee at Azadpur Mandi, the biggest vegetable and fruits wholesale hub in the national capital; Kejriwal demanded the withdrawal of demonetisation in 3 days. Banerjee also stated "I give the government 3 day ultimatum, fix things or withdraw the demonetisation scheme".[133]

In the demonetisation debate on the second and third day of the Winter Session of Parliament, on 17 and 18 November 2016, the opposition and the government clashed over the demonetisation issue, bringing the house to continuous halts.[134]

On 24 November 2016, in the demonetisation debate, the former prime minister of India Manmohan Singh said "this scheme will hurt small industries, the farming sector. The GDP can decline by about 3 per cent due to this move", while he also questioned "I would like to ask the Prime Minister examples of countries where people have deposited their money in the banks and not allowed to withdraw their own money." and later also said "It is no good that on each day banks bring out new notifications. It doesn't reflect properly on Prime Minister's Office, Finance Minister and the Reserve Bank of India. Cooperative banking system has been prevented from handling cash".[135] Singh at last termed the demonetisation move as an "organised loot, legalised plunder of the common people".[136]

As the demonetisation was opposed in both houses of the parliament, it triggered organised nationwide strikes across India. Opposition parties like Indian National Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party, Trinamool Congress,[137] DMK, JD(U), AIADMK, Nationalist Congress Party, Left, Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Samajwadi Party[138] decided to observe 'Akrosh Diwas' as, a protest campaign day on 28 November [139][140] and launch protests in front of banks, demanding that money be returned to people.[141] In the state of Bihar, 15 trains were blocked and stranded, while the states of West Bengal, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh saw protest marches and rallies led by opposition parties.[142] In the state of Kerala, shops and business establishments were shut, with school and colleges closed throughout the state, while movements of private vehicles were also disrupted in Northern Kerala.[142]

Effects and analysis

Black money

The government had estimated that INR3 trillion, or approximately 20%, of the demonetised notes would be permanently removed from circulation.[143] However, by 30 December 2016, approximately 97% of the demonetised banknotes, or INR14.97 trillion ($220 billion) of the INR15.4 trillion that had been demonetised, had been deposited with the banking system.[144][145][146] A Central Bank report released in August 2017 stated that a total 99% of the INR 500 and INR 1000 notes that were demonetised returned to the banking system,[147][148][149] a figure far larger than the government had expected at the time of banning the notes.[150] Therefore, the government failed in its aim of purging black money from the economy. Modi had stated that due to demonetisation, corrupt officials, businessmen and criminals -- popularly believed to hoard large amounts of illicit cash -- would be stuck with "worthless pieces of paper".[20] Economic analyst Vivek Kaul stated in a BBC article that "demonetisation had been a failure of epic proportions."[21]

Human trafficking

Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi and others working to fight human trafficking said that the note ban had led to a huge fall in sex trafficking, but that the trade had already begun rebounding by the following month.[151] Satyarthi said the demonetisation would be effective in combating exploitation of children as well as corruption and would be a great obstacle to traffickers.[152] However, two months later he expressed his disappointment on Rs 2000 notes being pushed into human trafficking in absence of other concrete steps.[153]

Radical groups

Demonetisation had badly hit Maoist and Naxalites as well. The surrender rate has reached its highest since demonetisation was announced. It is said that the money these organisations collected over the years have now lost their value making them take such a decision.[154]

The move also reportedly crippled Communist guerrilla groups (Naxalites) financing through money laundering.[155][156] On 10 November the police arrested a petrol pump owner at Ranchi when he reportedly tried to deposit INR2.5 billion, belonging to a person affiliated with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).[157] According to Chhattisgarh Police demonetisation has affected the Naxalite activities. It is reported that insurgents have stashed more than INR70 billion in the Bastar region.[156][158][159]

Cash shortage

Queue at an ATM for INR100 banknotes in Howrah, on 8 November 2016, 22:23 (IST)
Social media campaign 'Live ATM Alert' for working ATMs

The scarcity of cash due to demonetisation led to chaos, and most people holding old banknotes faced difficulties in exchanging them due to endless queues outside banks and ATMs across India, which became a daily routine for millions of people waiting to deposit or exchange the INR500 and INR1000 banknotes since 9 November.[14][11][12][160][13] ATMs were running out of cash after a few hours of being functional, and around half the ATMs in the country were non-functional.[12] Sporadic violence was reported in New Delhi, but there were no reports of any grievous injury,[161] people attacked bank premises and ATMs,[162][163][164][165][166][167] and a ration shop was looted in Madhya Pradesh after the shop owner refused to accept INR500 banknotes.[168][169][170][171]

The CMD of Punjab National Bank said that panic after demonetisation started fading on 19 November 2016.[172] As of 18 December 2016, there were still long queues at banks and ATMs.[173][174] Three months after the withdrawal of banknotes, a quarter of the ATMs were still short of cash.[175]

'Live ATM Alert' was a hashtag campaign started by a group of youngsters from a Facebook community called '7PM Status'.[176] It launched a campaign for crowdsourcing locations of ATMs in their vicinity that were live and working. The public were asked to post the location and details of ATMs that were live and dispensing cash, including a hashtag #LiveATMAlert or by tagging the group in their post in Facebook or Twitter. The group would in turn collate all gathered information and broadcast it to their followers at regular intervals.[177]

The cash shortage was still ongoing in the month of April 2017, five months after the demonetisation.[178][179][180][181] According to a survey, the situation was as bad as 83% of people being unable to withdraw money in Hyderabad, while in Pune, the figure was 69%.[181]

As of 10 December, INR242 crore in new notes had been seized.[182] Reports in the media noted that although the general public faced a severe cash shortage, some individuals were able to amass crores of rupees in new notes; they thus described the demonetisation exercise as being futile.[182][183][184]


Several people were reported to have died from standing in queues for hours to exchange their old banknotes.[185][186][187][188][189][190] Deaths were also attributed to lack of medical help due to refusal of old banknotes by hospitals.[191][192][193] As of 15 November 2016, the attributed death toll was 25.[15][194][195] and 33 deaths as of 18 November. In an interview, Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal lashed out at a BBC reporter who asked him to justify his 19 November claim that 55 deaths were linked to demonetisation.[196] By the end of the year, opposition leaders claimed that over 100 people had died due to demonetisation.[197][198][199] In March 2017, the government stated that they received no official report on deaths connected to demonetisation.[200]

Stock market decline

As a combined effect of demonetisation and US presidential election, the stock market indices dropped to an around six-month low in the week following the announcement. The day after the demonetisation announcement, BSE SENSEX crashed nearly 1,689 points and NIFTY 50 plunged by over 541 points.[10] By the end of the intraday trading section on 15 November 2016, the BSE SENSEX index was lower by 565 points and the NIFTY 50 index was below 8100 intraday.[201]

Transportation disruption

After the demonetisation was announced, about 800,000 truck drivers were affected with scarcity of cash, with around 400,000 trucks stranded at major highways across India were reported.[202] While major highway toll junctions on the Gujarat and Delhi-Mumbai highways also saw long queues as toll plaza operators refused the old banknotes.

Nitin Gadkari, the Minister of Transport, subsequently announced a suspension of toll collections on all national highways across India until midnight of 11 November, later extended until 14 November and again until midnight of 18 November, and yet again till 2 December.[203][204]


Transactions in the Indian agriculture sector are heavily dependent on cash and were adversely affected by the demonetisation of INR500 and INR1,000 banknotes.[205] Due to scarcity of the new banknotes, many farmers have insufficient cash to purchase seeds, fertilisers and pesticides needed for the plantation of rabi crops usually sown around mid-November.[206] Farmers and their unions conducted protest rallies in Gujarat, Amritsar and Muzaffarnagar against the demonetisation as well as against restrictions imposed by the Reserve Bank of India on district cooperative central banks which were ordered not to accept or exchange the demonetised banknotes.[207][208][209][210]

The demonetisation led to unavailability of cash to pay for food products. The reduction in demand that arose in turn led to a crash in the prices of crops. Farmers were unable to recover even the costs of transportation from their fields to the market from the low prices offered.[211][212] The prices dropped as low as 50 paise per kilo for tomatoes[213] and onions.[212] This forced the farmers across the country to dump their products in desperation.[213][214][215][216] Some farmers resorted to burying unsold vegetables.[217] Agricultural produce such as vegetables, foodgrains, sugarcane, milk and eggs were dumped on roads.[218][219] Some farmers dumped their produce in protest against the government.[219][220]

Digital transactions and cashless economy

The demonetisation was initially seen by some sources as a significant step towards making India a cashless economy.[221][222][223] Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to Indian population in his radio address in Dec 2016 to go cashless with slogan - 'Less-cash' first, 'cashless society' next.[224]

More people began using cards[225] and e-wallets, and the demand for point of sales (POS) or card swipe machines increased.[226][227] This led to the acceleration of installation of POS machines[225] According to data of Pine Labs, the demand for its POS machines doubled after the decision. The company stated that the debit card transactions rose by 108% and credit card transactions by 60% on 9 November 2016.[226] However concerns were raised regarding the lack security of mobile apps used for digital transactions.[228]

Several e-commerce companies hailed the demonetisation decision as an impetus to an increase in digital payments, hoping that it would lead to a decline in COD returns which could cut down their costs.[229]

In December 2016, the government launched an app called BHIM (Bharat Interface for Money) based on the Unified Payment Interface.[230] In September 2017, Google launched its first India-only banking app using UPI called Google Tez, that can be used by customers of over 50 banks on the UPI platform, and is available in several Indian languages.[231][232]

Both the Immediate Mobile Payments System (IMPS) and the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), which support instant payments using mobile phones, have grown substantially since demonetisation, even as cash has returned to the economy.[233]

After peaking in December 2016, digital transactions declined from January 2017 onwards, thus thwarting the objective of increasing digital payments through demonetisation.[234][235][236]

GDP growth

Global analysts cut their forecasts of India's GDP growth rate for the financial year 2016-17 by 0.5 to 3 percent due to demonetisation.[237][238] India's GDP in 2016 is estimated to be US$2.25 trillion, hence, each 1 per cent reduction in growth rate represents a shortfall of US$22.5 billion (INR 1.54 lakh crore) for the Indian economy.[239] According to Societe Generale, India's quarterly GDP growth rates would drop below 7% for an entire year at a stretch for the first time since June 2011.[240]

India's GDP growth for the quarter Jan-Mar '17 was 6.1% as against a forecast of 7.1% by economists.[241] The GDP growth for the entire fiscal year was 7.1%, a reduction from the 8% of the previous year.[242] This drop in GDP was attributed to demonetisation by economists.[243]

The GDP growth rate for the quarter April - June 2017 dropped to 5.7%, in comparison to 7.9% for the same quarter in the previous year.[244] This drop in GDP growth was attributed to demonetisation.[245] This was the lowest growth in GDP since 2014.[246]

Drop in industrial output

There was a reduction in industrial output as industries were hit by the cash crisis.[247] The Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell to 46.7 in November from 54.5 in October, recording its sharpest reduction in three years.[248] A reading above 50 indicates growth and a reading below shows contraction. This indicates a slowdown in both, manufacturing and services industries.[249] The PMI report also showed that the reduction in inflation in November was due to shortage in money supply.[248]

The growth in eight core sectors such as cement, steel and refinery products, which constitute 38% of the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), was only to 4.9 percent in November as compared with 6.6 percent in October.[249][250]


There was a loss of jobs due to demonetisation, particularly in the unorganised and informal sector and in small enterprises. Labour union jobs were crashed.[251][252][253]

Around 1.5 million jobs were lost in first four months of 2017 (i.e) from January 2017 to April 2017 as an effect of demonetisation. [254]

Tax impacts

The Finance Ministry instructed all revenue intelligence agencies to join the crackdown on foreign exchange traders, hawala operators and jewellers besides tracking movement of demonetised currency notes.[255] It was reported that the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and the Prime Minister Modi himself were directly coordinating the raids conducted by the Income Tax, Enforcement Directorate (ED) and other agencies. As of 23 December, PMO received around 700 calls giving information about black money and it directly forwarded the information to various law enforcement agencies for further action.[256][257]

Income Tax departments raided various illegal tax-evasive businesses in Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Ludhiana and other cities that traded with demonetised currency.[258] The Enforcement Directorate issued several FEMA notices to forex and gold traders.[255] Large sum of cash in defunct notes were seized in different parts of the country.[259][260][261][262][263][264] In Chhattisgarh liquid cash worth of (US$61,000) was seized.[265]

The number of I-T returns filed between 1 April 2017 and 5 August 2017 grew by 24.7 per cent to 2.82 crore over the same period in 2016, and the advance tax collections between 1 April 2017 and 5 August 2017 rose 41.8% over the corresponding period in 2016.[266][267] Aarati Krishnan, writing for The Hindu, writes that the impact of demonetisation on tax base has been mostly a good news.[268] An analysis of the economic data shows that there has been no substantial increase in the number of new tax payers or direct tax collection due to demonetisation.[269][270] As the use of the demonetised notes had been allowed by the government for the payment of municipal and local body taxes, it led to people using the demonetised INR500 and INR1,000 notes to pay large amounts of outstanding and advance taxes. As a result, revenue collections of the local civic bodies jumped. The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation reported collecting about (US$22 million) in cash payments of outstanding and advance taxes, within 4 days.[271]

People left with old notes

The government had initially announced that any person who is unable to deposit the old notes by 31 December 2016 would be given an opportunity to do so until a later date.[2] However, the government allowed only Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) to deposit old notes after 31 December 2016.[272] As a result, many people with legitimately earned old notes were left stranded with old currency notes. This included housewives with hidden savings,[273] soldiers who were on duty during the demonetisation period,[274][275] people who had suffered a bereavement,[274] and persons who had old notes received as wedding gifts before the demonetisation.[276] Many people found small amounts of currency stashed away inside quilts, pillows, cupboards, lockers, behind old photographs and wall hangings, in some cases by family members who had died.[274][276][277] In one case, two destitute orphans found INR 96,000 left by their mother and petitioned the Prime Minister for relief.[278][279] A poor woman who was unable to get her old notes exchanged stripped outside the RBI office in desperation.[280][281][282]OCIs and PIOs were also not allowed to exchange old notes.[283] People petitioned the courts to allow deposit of the old banknotes.[284] The Supreme Court of India also questioned the government on this matter.[285][286]

RBI dividend decline

The dividend paid by the Reserve Bank to the government for the financial year 2016-17 was Rs. 30.7 thousand crore, as against the expectation of Rs. 74.9 thousand crore.[287] This was less than half the dividend of Rs 65.9 thousand crore paid by the RBI in 2015-16. This decrease was due to demonetisation.[288][287] It was estimated that this decrease in income for the government could cause the fiscal deficit for the financial year 2016-17 to increase from the targeted 3.2% to 3.4%.[289] To avoid increasing the fiscal deficit, the government would have to reduce spending on social schemes, or increase revenue through taxes or other means.[289]


Mid-day meal workers, whose wages were unpaid for months were unable to procure loans for the purchase of essentials like vegetables, oil, tamarind, dal and firewood in Karimnagar, Telangana[290]. Other places where mid-day meal schemes were affected included Tekkatte, Karnata[291], Amritsar, Punjab[292] and Nagpur, Maharashtra[293] among others. Journalist, P. Sainath said there was an irreversible loss to the health of children in these areas because of the demonetisation.[294][295]

Migrant Workers

Migrant labourers in Kerala continued to be paid in demonetised currency, and as a result went hungry. They also lost precious work hours because they had to stand in ques to exchange money at banks. At banks, many labourers faced harassment from officials. Even after exchange, many were unable to buy essentials from shops which refused their Rs. 2000 denomination notes.[296]

Migrant workers in Gujarat's jewellery industry were left jobless by the slowdown in the local economy dues to demonetisation. This included jewellery workers in Ahmedabad and Rajkot, diamond workers and manmade fibres in Surat, ceramic industry workers in Morbi, brass workers in Jamnagar and shipbreaking workers in Alang.[297]

Evasion attempts

A jewellery store in a shopping mall with a notice "We accept INR500 and INR1000 notes", even after they were no longer valid banknotes.

Gold purchases

In Gujarat, Delhi and many other major cities, sales of gold increased on 9 November, with an increased 20 to 30% premium surging the price as much as (US$630) from the ruling price of (US$440) per 10 grams (0.35 oz).[298][299]

Income Tax officials raided multiple branches of Axis Bank and found bank officials involved in money laundering acts, exchanging old notes for gold.[300][301][302]

Donations in temples

In India, the cash deposited into hundis, or cash collection boxes in temples and gurudwaras are exempted from inquiry by the tax department.[303] This exemption is sometimes misused to launder money.[304] After the note ban, there was a spike in donations in the form of the demonetised notes in temples.[305][306][307] Authorities of Sri Jalakanteswarar temple at Vellore discovered cash worth (US$61,000) from the temple hundi in the form of defunct notes.[308]

Multiple bank transactions

There have been reports of people circumventing the restrictions imposed on exchange transactions by conducting multiple transactions at different bank branches and also sending hired people, employees and followers in groups to exchange large amounts of banned currency at banks.[309][310] In response, the government announced that it would start marking customers with indelible ink. This was in addition to other measures proposed to ensure that the exchange transactions are carried out only once by each person.[311][312][313]

Railway bookings

As soon as the demonetisation was announced, it was observed by the Indian Railways authorities that a large number of people started booking tickets particularly in classes 1A and 2A for the longest distance possible, to get rid of unaccounted cash. A senior official said, "On November 13, 42.7 million passengers were nationally booked across all classes. Of these, only 1,209 were 1A and 16,999 for 2A. It is a sharp dip from the number of passengers booked on November 9, when 27,237 passengers had booked tickets in 1A and 69,950 in 2A."[314]

The Railways Ministry and the Railway Board responded swiftly and decided that cancellation and refund of tickets of value INR10,000 and above will not be allowed by any means involving cash. The payment can only be through cheque/electronic payment. Tickets above INR10,000 can be refunded by filing ticket deposit receipt only on surrendering the original ticket. A copy of the PAN card must be submitted for any cash transaction above INR50,000. The railway claimed that since the Railway Board on 10 November imposed a number of restrictions to book and cancel tickets, the number of people booking 1A and 2A tickets came down.[314][315]

Backdated accounting

The Enforcement Directorate raided several forex establishments making back dated entries.[316] Money laundering using backdated accounting was carried out by co-operative banks,[317] jewellers,[318] sellers of iPhones,[319] and several other businesses.[320]

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