Indian social media lights up with humour as PM Modi goes after 'black money'

Indian residents exchange 500 rupee notes for coins at a roadside money changer, who charges 100 rupees per transaction, in Allahabad on Nov 9, 2016.
Indian residents exchange 500 rupee notes for coins at a roadside money changer, who charges 100 rupees per transaction, in Allahabad on Nov 9, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's announcement on Tuesday (Nov 8) that it would phase out the 500-rupee (S$10.50) and 1,000-rupee banknotes within 50 days caught many Indian citizens by surprise.

Mr Modi's rationale was a crackdown what is termed "black money", allegedly funnelled into money laundering by corrupt officials and terrorist backers.

As Indians swarmed ATMs and thronged banks to exchange their existing stash of banknotes, social media users poked a little fun at the long-term impact of the situation.

Comedian Sahil Shah seized on the ample fodder for his trade, posting on Twitter a still from the Netflix series Narcos depicting drug lord Pablo Escobar with a heap of cash.

He added in another tweet: "500 and 1000 buck notes must be feeling like Pluto right now."

The joke was that the banknotes were now relics of a bygone era.

Other people came up with different ways to use their banknotes once the cash ceased to be legal tender - for example, as food wrappers.

Another picture of the banknotes being used to sell nuts was widely circulated on WhatsApp and reposted to Twitter by cricketer Mohammad Kaif.

Some suggested using the newly decommissioned money as toilet paper or to feed livestock.

The demonetisation was a source of humour in the tense run-up to the US presidential elections, with some drawing comparisons between the shock of the tight Clinton-Trump race and the unexpected timing of the Indian government's announcement.

Cartoonist Satish Acharya captured in one sketch the image of Indians breaking open piggy banks for coins to replace their out-of-commission banknotes.