Currency Chaos

Currency Chaos

Organisation: IndiaSpend (India)

Publication Date: 04/05/2017

Applicant(s)

Size of team/newsroom:small

Description

On the midnight of November 8, 2016, 86% of India's currency, by value, in Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, were declared illegal by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.The demonetisation move--colloquially known as notebandi-- was to counter undeclared and untaxed ‘black’ money and use of counterfeit notes that were fueling terror activities, the government claimed. This move brought one of world’s fastest growing economies to a standstill since the ‘remonetisation’ policy led to a severe cash-crunch, leading to widespread panic and long queues outside banks and ATMs. As many as 475 million Indians--or 82.7% of India’s workforce--works in the unorganised sector including agriculture, retail, fisheries, construction and small scale manufacturing, contributing to 50% of India’s gross domestic product. This population, larger than the population of USA, was severely impacted by demonetisation, as the sector was primarily cash-driven, with over 200 million people (18% of India’s population) not having bank accounts. IndiaSpend, the country’s first data journalism initiative, sought--through a series of investigations, reportage and analysis--to uncover the challenges faced by the unorganised sector because of the decision. Our team found wide gaps in the remonetisation reaching the most vulnerable and yet the most critical sections of the economy, through ground reports across the sectors of tourism, agriculture, fisheries, retail and textile. We supplied perspective, through data, to the anecdotal evidence that we collected through our ground reports.

What makes this project innovative? What was its impact?

Our project was unique because it looked at the sections of the population hitherto neglected by the mainstream media discourse which was urban-centric, relegated to conversations on Twitter, leaving out the population most-affected. Our primary objective was to uncover the challenges of the most vulnerable section. To do that, we used various ways of storytelling including live-tweeting and videos from the ground, Facebook Live sessions with experts to add perspective, and by mapping our data through Google Maps and Fusion Tables. Our evidence-based stories and analyses brought attention to these sections which had been left out of the financial system, and their unique challenges. Our analysis also pointed out the changing rationale of the government’s decision of demonetisation--from curbing black money and counterfeiting to, later, digital payments.

Technologies used for this project:

Facebook Live, Google Maps, Fusion Tables, Twitter
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