With no warning nor opportunity for preparation, on the evening on November 8th the PM of India enacted a plan, soon to be known as demonetization, which nullified 86% of the paper currency Indians depend on daily in their cash-based economy, where about 90% of transactions occur with cash. By canceling all of the 500 and 1000 rupee notes (roughly equivalent to $7.50 and $10 USD) and reprinting newly designed bills, the PM hoped to decrease the power of terrorist groups, which were heavily funded through counterfeit rupees, and to increase the use of banks accounts by the people of India. Though trade-ins of old money would be possible for the couple months that followed, restrictions and inaccessibility caused a panic for survival. Overnight the people treated these "old" notes as "dead money" and no longer could the people buy food or pay rent, etc. ATMs and banks were closed for days and even when they did open again the floods of frantic, yelling people made trading old money in for new money a multi-hour and rather dangerous event. After the time needed to reconfigure ATMs to hold and read the new bills, ATM lines stretched around blocks and money would run out long before most of the people in line would reach the front spot. Tension was high and people, including myself, were nervous.
But then India did what India does. "We're all in this together" became the mindset and hands started reaching out to help each other. Strangers on the street would help you search for someone that might be able to make change, men would let women go to the front of ATM lines to ensure extra safety for them, restaurant owners would allow you come back days later to pay for your meal if you didn't have the right money yet. ATM lines even became a bit like a party in some areas, camaraderie and friendships forming over the daily visits. This all goes to show the resiliency and love of the people of India.
The demonetization continued to cause many issues all the way through the day I left in late December. While the demonetization may have been necessary in the eyes of the PM, in my opinion the the planning and execution was inconsiderate of the needs of the common people.