Mumbai: The last time Anil Bokil watched a movie was in 1992. It was the 1959 classic Ben-Hur.

“I liked the way the film visualized the film maker’s imagination," recalls Bokil. It is the visualization of ideas that fascinates Bokil.

These days, he is happy that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set in motion one of the big ideas that ArthaKranti Pratisthan, the Pune-based think-tank he founded 12 years ago, has proposed.

“It is a surgery done without administering the patient the dose of anaesthesia," Bokil says about demonetisation of the currency notes of Rs500 and Rs1,000. He calls it “currency compression", not demonetisation. “We have proposed compressing the currency so much that the Rs50 note becomes the highest denomination in circulation. We are not there yet but eventually we will," prophesies Bokil with the easy certitude of a pragmatist.

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“We are not saying we go completely cashless. Some cash will have to be there, but we need to set the bar at Rs50. For a country like us where 70% of the population survives on just $2 per day, why do we need currency notes upwards of Rs100?" asks Bokil.

The 55-year-old mechanical engineer has been an employee, employer, entrepreneur, economic theorist, and activist. “He has done many things in life and all of them in his own unique and fundamental way," says Prashant Deshpande, Bokil’s colleague at ArthaKranti .

Bokil comes from Latur in Marathwada, the town that in 2015 earned the dubious distinction of getting its drinking water from an Indian Railways train. Though ArthaKranti as an organization was registered in 2004, Bokil had started working on these ideas in 1999.

It was in 1999 that Bokil, a bachelor who calls the universe his family, disassociated himself from an industrial project he had helped set up to support 100 skilled labourers of a major automobile plant in Aurangabad who had been fired during the 1994 recession.

For a country like us where 70% of the population survives on just $2 per day, why do we need currency notes upwards of Rs100?- Anil Bokil, ArthaKranti Pratisthan

Otherwise chatty, Bokil is reluctant to speak about himself and insists several times during the conversation that it is the people at ArthaKranti Pratishthan, and all Indians themselves, who should be credited with the beginning of this task of currency compression. “It is the campaign that we all started 16 years back and the essential human gravity of all Indians that has actually set us on the path of total economic revolution. I am nobody," he says.

Yet, there are reasons why Bokil is a star post 8 November. He is modest when it comes to claiming credit but Bokil did not shy away from reaching out to the right powers when it mattered. In 2013, soon after Modi was declared the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) prime ministerial candidate, Bokil went to Ahmedabad with his colleagues and sought to make a small presentation to the would-be-prime minister about the ArthaKranti proposal.

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The office of the then Gujarat chief minister gave Bokil 10 minutes. “By the time I was done, I realised that he had listened to me for 90 minutes. He said nothing after I had made my presentation," Bokil recalls.

There have been a few follow-up meetings with Modi since then, in 2014, 2015, and even this year when, as the prime minister, Modi met Bokil with financial services secretary Hasmukh Adhia.

Before this now-famous meeting with Modi, Bokil had submitted his “no taxation" proposal to then BJP president and now Union minister Nitin Gadkari.

“The first point of ArthaKranti proposal is a complete withdrawal of existing taxation system except the customs and import duties. The second point is tax on transactions routed through a bank, which will be the single point tax deducted at source on the credit/receiving account only. Third, cash transactions will not attract any tax. And the fourth point was withdrawal of high-denomination currency notes," Bokil says adding that Modi has done the fourth thing first. “That’s probably his way of doing things. Nobody among us imagined that there would be a politician who would do this. But Modi has proved us wrong," Bokil says.

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Did he expect the kind of turbulence Modi’s announcement has caused? “As I told you, Modi has done the surgery without administering anaesthesia. It was always going to be painful. But believe me, 95% of those who are queuing up aren’t complaining. Eventually, they would understand why this was necessary," he asserts.

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