- Published: 06 December 2016
Anil Bokil, the founder of ArthaKranti Prathisthan, said a comprehensive study needs to be carried out to understand the effects of their proposals at micro level, on all segments of society and the economy. Only the govt has the wherewithal and the resources necessary for conducting such an exercise.
11 Harshada Building, Rambag Colony, Paud Road, Kothrud, in suburban Pune. That is the nondescript office-cum-residence of the now famous demonetisation man Anil Bokil. But his neighbours hardly know the man and his humble home. After reaching the address and within few furlongs away from the place, I asked a well-heeled lady and a gentleman for the famous man’s residence who had met the prime minister Narendra Modi and impressed him no end. But they just did not know the man and went their way passing by the same road where a small building Harshada is located. When a college student came out of that very building on his motorcycle, I asked him for Anil Bokil. He too was neither familiar with him nor with his organisation. When I called on his mobile, a volunteer opened the window from the second floor and peeped out smiling.
“We are here for the last six years but nobody knows us,” says Bokil, 53, who welcomed me into his spartan rented office with two tables with computers, two full time volunteers and one part time volunteer. “It is only after the prime minister’s demonisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 bank notes, we have come into the limelight,” says the small-built wiry bachelor, who founded ArthaKranti Prathisthan or Economic Revolution Foundation in 2005, as we sit down on two plastic chairs facing each other for the interview.
A few minutes into the conversation, the son of retired teacher-parents from Latur city in Marathawada region, infamous for hundreds of distressed farmers’ suicide in Maharashtra, comes across as a fully possessed man of his mission. He lives on Rs 3,500 he gets from his 80-year-old retired teacher-mother, who lives with her husband in Latur city. It would not be far from the truth to call him Sanyasi of sort, as he has renounced the world, shut his bank account, lives on good will of the people and devoting his life entirely for a new economic order in the country with a band of about 25 dedicated likeminded people he won over during the last 16 years.
He says he is “rich” with the goodwill of the people towards his mission. He owns nothing. Bokil moved into 1,300 sq ft rented apartment at Harshada building in 2000. ArthaKranti Prathisthan pays Rs 25,000 rent per month, out of which Rs 8,000 is collected from an artist tenant, who also draws pics and makes posters for the organisation. “We neither welcome nor reject Modi’s scrapping of the high denomination bank notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 on November 8 from our money system,” Bokil says dispassionately. The prime minister has taken just a part of our five-point programme to establish a “taxless and less cash economy”, he says. But the manner of execution is different from his NGO. “We want solution for the economic system of the country and not a punishment,” he says, adding that he accepts the present demonisation move in a positive spirit as a responsible citizen.
“The prime minister has started the process, we are now expecting the rest of our programme presented to him to be adopted to usher in truly a taxless and less cash economy,” Bokil, who does not believe in God but “divine consciousness”, says with deep conviction.
It was in July 2013, a core team of five members led by Bokil met the BJP’s officially declared prime ministerial candidate and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi at Ghandhinagar about three years ago. Modi swept the general polls and was installed as PM in 2014.
“We were given just 10 minutes and once I started my presentation, the meeting lasted for over two hours,” Bokil recalled. The presentation included the following:
The mission of ArthaKranti Prathisthan, a registered trust, is “an economic revolution: a way towards Principled, Prosperous and Peaceful living”. Its core five-pronged strategy to be implemented in toto without any fundamental changes or dilution is:
- Withdrawal of existing taxation system completely except customs/ import duties. That is all Central, state and local government taxes – direct and indirect.
- Every transaction routed through a bank will attract certain deduction in appropriate percentage as Transaction Tax, i.e, single point tax deducted at source (say 2 per cent). This deduction is to be effected on receiving/credit account only, the deducted amount is to be credited to different government level like Central, state and local (say, 0.7, 0.6 and 0.35 per cent respectively), the transacting bank will also have a share (say 0.35 per cent) in the deducted amount as the bank has a key role to perform.
- Withdrawal of high denomination currency.
- Cash transaction will not attract any transaction tax.
- Government should make legal provisions to restrict cash transaction upto a certain limit, say Rs 2,000. This means, cash transactions above this limit will not enjoy any legal protection.
“This proposed system can be brought force without any major change in the Constitution. It is also a truly benevolent and fair system, in line with the basic socialistic philosophy of the nation,” Bokil emphasises. He says since this is the first time such a system will come into existence anywhere in the world, the course of action for the Modi government will need to be carefully planned in a phased manner. “A clear time frame will have to be determined and conveyed to all for the phases of implementation,” he says.
According to Bokil, a comprehensive study would have to be carried out to understand the effects of the ArthaKranti proposals on the micro level, on all segments of society and the economy. “Only the government has the wherewithal and the resources necessary for conducting such an exercise,” he says candidly.
Apart from that banks would have to invest in technology for efficient management and infrastructure for deeper penetration into areas of low presence. “This would be a long-term process and banks will have to plan their strategies accordingly,” Bokil elaborates. Citizens would also have to be informed about the new system over a certain period through the use of every possible means and through the media. Moreover, a nationwide effort would have to be made using all existing administrative networks to issue PA numbers/social security numbers and cards to each and every citizen. “This process has already been initiated by the Central government under the Unique Identification Number Scheme,” Bokil points out.
On implementing his proposal, he says abolition of the existing tax system would have to be done with the effect from a single predetermined date. Simultaneously, the deducting bank transaction tax from all bank transactions would commence. “Currency notes of denomination higher than Rs 50 will be phased out in a time-bound manner. All this money will attract the standard deduction of bank transaction tax and the balance will be treated as legitimate wealth thereafter,” Bokil says, adding that regulations governing cash transactions would also come into force.
“The magnitude and time of revenue generation by this system needs to be anticipated,” he says, pointing out that initially there would be huge deposits of cash of high denomination into banks, and there would be a huge inflow of revenue throughout the phase of currency compression. “The day when currency compression is completed and Rs 50 is the highest denomination in force, all currency money can be assumed to have come back into the system,” Bokil says. Thereafter, all subsequent bank transactions would yield bank transaction tax and the government would receive revenue in a continuous stream, round the clock, round the year, he adds.
Also, the effects of these steps would need to be carefully monitored and fine-tuning action would have to be taken as and where required, Bokil says, adding that tools of monetary governance would have to be judiciously used to control inflation.
“Post implementation, a strict watch would have to be maintained on government spending. The highest degree of transparency will have to be brought into all government spending decisions,” Bokil says, adding that the equity, simplicity and economy of this system are self-evident at the conceptual level itself.
The turning point in Bokil’s life came in 1995, when a group of 86 skilled carpenters, welders, foundry men, blacksmiths, electricians etc, were refused credit by a local bank in Aurangabad city in Maharashtra. Bokil, who at that time was manufacturing import-substitutes for processing and manufacturing industry, learnt of their plight, studied their case deeply and prepared and presented their project report to the local cooperative bank. “It gave credit in the Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh range,” Bokil says. Within two years state-owned Bank of Maharashtra and Bank of Hyderabad also lent funds out of which, Bokil purchased a 2-acre plot from Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation in Aurangabad and set up an industrial cluster model. In five years, it became so successful that Bangladeshi Muhammad Yunus, a social entrepreneur, banker, and economist, and the recipient of Nobel Peace Prize for founding the Grameen Bank and pioneering the concepts of microcredit and microfinance, wanted to replicate it in his country. “A young entrepreneur, who set up a foundry unit there today owns a BMW, not a small achievement,” Bokil points out.
Since 1995, when the bank refused credit to 86 skilled men, who wanted to venture into business, Bokil’s long journey to find solutions for macroeconomics started. The mechanical engineer by profession met many economists, chartered accountants to understand why everyone does not have access to banks, why they cannot get loans from the banks, why capital is expensive and so on and so forth. After a deep study along with some likeminded people from Aurangabad and Pune, he came up with the ArthaKranti strategy in 1999 and invited people to join him.
“I met him in 2007 for an interview which was carried in Sakaal Marathi daily with a headline ‘Farmers’ suicide will halt with total economic revolution’ which become an instant hit,” Yamaji Malkar, former editor of Sakaal for 10 years, told Financial Chronicle. He is one of the 11 trustees of ArthaKranti Prathisthan. He quit Sakaal in 2009, and joined Bokil full time. For the last six years, he has been editing Arthapurna monthly magazine, propagating Bokil’s economic revolution for the country. “The magazine runs on contribution,” says Malkar, who, like Bokil, also does not believe in God. Married to a classical singer with two college-going daughter and son, he earns his living by freelancing. He is one of the right hand man of Bokil, writing extensively on ArthaKranti in various Marathi newspapers and magazine and on a lecture circuit with Bokil to various groups, institutions and associations across the country.
“Bokil also met Rahul Gandhi in 2013 in Delhi,” Malkar, 52, said. But nothing came out of it. He also met Pratibha Patil, the then governor of Rajasthan in March 2007, who, impressed with his work, wrote to Somnath Chatterjee, the then Speaker of Lok Sabha, urging him to give the ArthaKranti team an opportunity to present their model before members of Parliament. Since then, this team has been trying to influence politicians.
“I heard his lecture in Aurangabad in 2007 and I fell in love with his ideas and ideology,” Prashant Desphand, 49, a successful hotelier from Aurangabad, who has joined the organisation full time, told FC. He has shut down his three vegetarian restaurants in Aurangabad and earns Rs 25,000 a month as rent from his rented commercial shop. “This is a movement and I want to devote my life for it,” Deshpand, married with two college-going sons, said. He assists Bokil full time in Pune.
Bokil’s only passion is to see his dream come true. “This is a movement. We are not an organisation as such. We are a movement and sooner or later it will catch on,” he says. No wonder he has remained a bachelor, shunning everything, even money except ArthaKranti.