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Demonetisation deconstructed. The official face of FinMin upbeat about impact.
The major impact of demonetisation was on black money, with bulk of the money in circulation returned to banks.

The impact of demonetisation was two fold: first was immobilising old currency not tendered to banks; the second related to the data available with the government on large deposits, said Shaktikanta Das who had recently retired as Secretary- Economic Services. 

Das was closely involved in the whole exercise. Perhaps next only to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Das knew the game inside-out. The official face on economic issues, in numerous fora Das explained the nuances of the economic policy in eloquent and lucid terms. 

It was no wonder that his address in Chennai under the aegis of the Chennai International Centre was attended by the business and economic glitterati of the metropolis.  

Das referred to 18 lakh bank accounts of large depositors of old currency under investigation. He expressed confidence that these would unravel information on black money. He also pointed to the spurt in deposits in the Jan Dhan bank accounts; obviously these involved benami transactions and are under scrutiny. 

The articulate bureaucrat also explained the salient features of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). An immediate fallout is the abolition of check posts on state borders that now contributes to smooth flow of traffic across states. Das pointed to the significant savings, time and turnaround of vehicles. 

Yet another fallout of the reforms, Das said, related to the big jump in advance tax returns filed for the first quarter and to the increase in the number of income tax assessees. 

Das belonged to the Tamil Nadu cadre of IAS. He earned a reputation as an honest and efficient administrator. I remember his rich contribution in winning for the state large investments from business leaders. He took a great deal of initiative in winning the Ford project for Tamil Nadu, initially in partnership with the Mahindras. Then came Hyundai Motors setting up a huge facility at Sriperumbudur which soon made the town evolve as the fastest growing industrial area in the country. Equally deep was his involvement in attracting industrial units around Ennore Port. 

However, the political leadership curbed his initiatives and even put him on the bench.   The nation’s good luck and that of Das helped in his being posted in Delhi. He received good recognition from the UPA and even more from the NDA. 

The felicity and comprehensive nature of his address on the state of the economy was ,therefore, no surprise. Understandably he was upbeat onthe need for the two momentous reforms – the DeMon and GST. 

Born into a Odisha family, Das is fluent in Tamil and Hindi. I have earlier reported on his proactive approach: at the Economic Editors Conference 2016 held in November last a journalist from Tamil Nadu was struggling to ask a question in English at the session presided over by Arun Jaitley. Das invited him to ask the question in Tamil and responded in chaste Tamil. It was unique; in my attendence at the EEC meetings it was the first time that I observed Tamil being used for seeking clarification and being responded to in the same language! Remember, for a greater part of these four decades plus, North Block, the seat of the finance ministry, had large representation of Tamils as secretaries and also long tenures of Tamils as finance secretary.  In recent times this has thinned down.  – SV


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