Monday, November 14, 2016

The ultimate laundromat/black hole

Everyone knows the chaos one has witnessed and continues to witness at banks over the past few days, people typically trying to get rid of bundles of 500 and 100 rupee notes, totalling not beyond low six figures at best. These notes are taken to the authorized laundromat (RBI, I suppose). Just like in old days when the launderer took clothes from your house and all the clothes were marked with some indelible ink for easy identification, the notes the customers offer come with a copy of their PAN card or other identification.
But RBI can do only so much. It is not big enough for the biggest players in the nation’s economy. What if the amount is larger, say in multiples of seven figures? Go to the biggest laundromat there is – the rich temples! To be precise, the presiding deities of these temples are the owners of the laundromat.
This is the news item scanned and copied above (The Hindu, ‘Temples in State [TN} open to accepting recalled notes as hundi offering’, 2016-11-14]. Note the judicious use of the word “recalled” in the heading. There is no hint that notes are not even worth the paper they are printed on. In the most extreme sense, transacting in them has become illegal. Isn’t this why banks demand your ID when you turn in these notes? I think so.
But God is all forgiving, of course, if only you sincerely repent. No questions asked. Of course, in mundane affairs there may be a penalty for going to God – God takes all your money and not just the tax you own on it plus the steep penalty. But, this is God’s exchange rate. The more you offer, the more blessings you get, if not in this life, most definitely, your guru asserts, in your speculated subsequent lives.
There is no need for you to wrap the notes you dump in the Hundi (the big vessel to receive the devotees’ voluntary offerings) a copy of your ID. These are for the lesser players, like your neighbourhood bank branch. The hundi is the God-related black hole!  The moment the notes are dropped into the hundi they lose their identity. All notes belong to God, the ultimate black hole.
See, God is so powerful! Just invoking his generic name begets so many metaphors – Laundromat, black hole ...! Just add in specific deities, say “Samayapuram Sri Mariamman Temple”, “Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple” in Srirangam (Geographic Appellation, GA, in both the cases!), then you get the local flavor of the transactions, illegal ones.  Palani Dandayudhapani must be waiting in the wings! Of course, the Ur deity who engaged in this laundromat business resides in the Tirumala-Tirupati complex in Andhra Pradesh. Where AP goes can TN lag behind!
The government is an agent of the deities. “[T]here will be no restrictions on temples and other places of worship [that is a nod to our special way of proving we are secular! Tithes are exempt] accepting these withdrawn [again, the illegality has been masked] currencies in their offering boxes.” Yet, when the temple is required to issue a receipt for the transaction (like for “tickets” for saying Hello! to God!), no 500 or 1000 rupee notes! God is choosy!
People who have unaccounted cash are busy doing calculations – how much of their cash will they reveal to the tax authorities and how much to God. Tax authorities and God are on the two sides of the table and they are trying to come to an agreement.
Let the discussions continue!
Raghuram Ekambaram

P.S (2016-11-21)

The Hindu news report on collections in the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) Temple hundis

Just read and get disgusted.

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