Indian PM Modi Nominated for 2017 JFK Profiles In Courage Award


By Bhamy Shenoy & Mallik Putcha

CLEAR LAKE: The JFK Foundation has been giving awards since 1990 to celebrate individuals who choose the public interest over the partisanship, who do what is right rather than what is expedient. Though these awards are ordinarily given to living Americans, seven international awards have been given. Some of them have been Ghana’s Kofi Annan, Ukraine’s Victor Yushchenko, People of Egypt and Women of Liberia.

The Demonetization of Indian currency implemented by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8, 2016 will go down in history as an epochal event. This statement was submitted to JFK foundation on January 31, 2017 to nominate Modi for this prestigious award. Those who want to support this nomination are urged to write to and use social networks to spread the message.

Modi’s audacious step
Prime Minister Modi took an unexpected and audacious step on November 8, 2016, to combat widespread corruption in India, by implementing demonetization of high-denomination paper currency. Demonetization was a simple strategy to bring 86% of the wealth stored in currency into the banking sector. By banning notes, those corrupt politicians and government officials were put in the position of losing their ill-gotten (“black”) money. Terrorists with fake currency had to curtail their activities.

The Indian people had to put up with the inconvenience of standing in long lines to either deposit their old notes or to obtain new notes. Despite the initial misgivings, no honest person lost money. Anyone who deposited more than Rs. 2.5 lakhs will be prosecuted if they are unable to show proof of earnings.

Demonetization has not proved a failure, within 50 days, the banking functions were restored to normalcy. The World Bank endorsed Modi’s demonetization strategy. India has quickly begun to move from a 98% cash-transaction economy to a more transparent and formal cashless society. This rapid digitization will result in less corrupt India.

Great political risk
Never in history, has a country dared to experiment with demonetization to win the war against corruption. Despite aggressive protests, dysfunctional parliament, and potential loss in next election, PM Modi put the country interests first.

He courageously took the greatest political risk, if the opposition succeeds in demonstrating demonetization as a failure.

This initiative has collateral damage. Undoubtedly, demonetization caused inconveniences to the poor and middle class.

For those who had to spend for wedding celebrations, a cash shortage caused problems and daily wage earners could not work for some time.

For the poor of India
However, compared to the lines the poor have had endured to collect their rightful entitlements of food for over six decades, and their endless trips to government offices, the problems created by demonetization are manageable. The public has expressed overwhelming support for Modi’s strategy.

Some have rightly criticized the way demonetization was implemented with such suddenness. Less than a handful of people knew of this initiative in advance. However, if more elaborate pre-planning had been undertaken, there would have been fewer benefits.

Some preparations made a year ago by the government did ensure success—particularly the Jan Dhan, a mission to encourage people to open bank accounts. Thus, more than 80% have such accounts. Just few days prior to demonetization, an Act (“Benami Act”) to appropriate any ill-gotten wealth was passed.

PM Modi deserves to be recognized by the JFK Foundation for his courageous and strategic act of demonetization to solve the malaise of corruption in the largest democracy in the world. This recognition would serve as a model to inspire leaders of developing countries to emulate him in the future. This year being the centennial, it is even more appropriate that the Awardee is being recognized for tackling a Himalayan problem in the largest democracy.

Bhamy Shenoy is a retired ConocoPhillips Manager; 346-812- 2783; Mallik Putcha is a retired NASA Contractor Systems Engineering and Project Management Specialist, Houston; 832-687-5000;