The Government of India has launched a drive to make India digital. It wants India to become a cash less (or less cash) economy in order that the evils inherent in a cash economy, such as lack of transparency leading to evasion of taxes and creation of black money , are minimized. The Government evidently believes that its objective can be achieved quickly by incentivising people to transact their payments digitally or by electronic means such as by use of credit/debit cards or e wallets etc. Substantial daily and periodic cash awards have been announced to best performers in
making digital transactions.
The fact that in a country like India, where the availability of infrastructure for use of electronic gadgets as also people’s spending power varies widely from region to region means that not all people are evenly placed to vie for and avail of the incentives. That, however,is not the point that I am trying to make. My point is that peoples’ habits and attitudes cannot be shaped on a lasting basis by offering awards or incentives.While an incentive may be a temporary or immediate factor to be accounted for, what an individual or a group of individuals will do habitually or in the normal course of events will always depend on beliefs or mind sets evolved or acquired over time (or life time) or even genetically. It may also depend on opportunities or resources available to the individual or group of individuals.
There are umpteen instances where individuals stake their lives to save some one from being drowned, burnt, robbed, raped, killed but I do not think any one ever did it because their was an incentive or prize or award to be won. The heroic deeds are
done out of a sense of duty, selflessness or humanity because the person has been so molded over a period of time through inherited or inherent or acquired traits. No doubt a lot of such persons are rewarded rightly after the event. I say, rightly, because I think, that recognition of such acts is societal duty but whether these rewards incentivise others to similarly stake their lives is doubtful. In other words, awards are acts of recognition and not incentives.
I, therefore, believe that while the incentives offered by the Government of India for making digital transactions may cause a temporary spurt in such transactions, they will not necessarily represent an attitudinal change.Besides, as already pointed out, since all sections of the people are not evenly placed to avail of the incentives, they may even hurt some peoples’ minds.