If India’s Demonetization Was All About Going Digital, Then Why the Rush?

Nandan Nilekani, the former chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India, has hailed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move to demonetize high-value currency notes—removing 500 and 1,000 rupee notes, which together comprised 86 percent of the cash in circulation—saying it will boost India’s digital economy.

“The shock given to the currency” will accelerate the process of the digitization of the economy and what could have taken three to six years can now be expected in three to six months, said Nilekani, the architect of Aadhar, the 12-digit unique identity number that has so far been issued to over 93 percent Indians after collecting their biometric and demographic information.

His comments come at a time when the government has begun pushing cashless transactions in a big way, promoting digital payments through e-wallets, mobile and Internet banking, and bank cards. Niti Aayog, the National Institution for Transforming India, the institution that replaced India’s Planning Commission after Modi came to power in 2014, has launched a country-wide campaign to create awareness on digital payments. It is conducting training workshops for government employees in various ministries and administrative services.

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