Note ban a thoughtless move, attack on poor: Chidambamarm
Nagpur : In a scathing attack on the Narendra Modi government, former Finance Minister P Chidambaram today dubbed demonetisation a “thoughtless move” and “the worst assault on the poor” in the country.
“This is the worst assault on the poor in the country. Demonetisation has broken the back of 45 crore people. It is punishing the poor. I see no rich man affected by the ban,” the Congress leader told a press meet here.
“Daily wagers are out of work. Village markets and mandis have been shut for the last 30 days ” Chidambaram said.
Terming the exercise as “absurd” and “thoughtless”, he sought to know how many economies in the world are cashless.
“World over small transactions are done in cash not by cards. To assume that India will go from 3 per cent to 100 per cent cashless in a matter of a few months, is an outlandish expectation,” he said.
It was an illusion that demonetisation was created to hurt the rich and help the poor, he said.
Highlighting the woes of the people in remote areas, he said, “The pain in rural areas is indescribable. Imagine the plight of people in the seven state in northeast. There are only 5,000 ATMs in the region of which 3,500 are in Assam but most of them are shut. How are they going to access cash?”
He said 65 per cent of the ATMs across the country have no cash.
The Congress leader also said that recent cash seizures in Rs 2,000 notes across the country point to the “biggest scam” arising out of the note ban.
He sought to know that when the government scrapped old currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 and brought in new tenders of Rs 2000, how are hoarders getting it and how came recent seizures in Delhi, Bangalore and Jaipur and other places yielded new notes.
“On November 8, the PM suddenly announced demonetisation with three objectives — to curb black money, corruption and terror funding. How can a terrorist killed in a recent encounter carry two pieces of Rs 2000 notes and crores of rupees in form of new currency bills. Are they reaching directly in the hands of those found with the notes,” he asked seeking a SIT probe into the entire episode.
“Notes are sent from printing press to currency chests and then to respective banks,” he said.
Chidambaram said around 300 crore currency notes can be printed in a month and “if you go by the requirement in the country, it will take full seven months to complete the exercise”.
He demanded that the RBI publish minutes of the Board meeting held on November 8 before the Prime Minister announced the decision to scrap high-value notes.
“Let the country know who were the directors, who attended the meeting and endorsed the decision or anyone in the Board has given a dissent note,” the senior Congress leader said.
He asked the government if the move has achieved its objectives. “How has demonetisation stopped corruption? Now bribes are being taken in Rs 2000 notes,” he said.
The former Finance Minister said Modi probably did not consult enough people before making the move or those who were asked gave him wrong advice.
“He could have spoken to their own former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha or for that matter former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, wherein secrecy would not have been compromised,” Chidambaram said.
The government could have “gradually” withdrawn high-value notes. The Prime Minister should go out and see for himself the real picture at ATMs, he said, adding “the objective has not been served. People won’t forgive the government”.
He said the confidence in Indian economy has been severely dented. Credit growth is the lowest in last 20 years. Greenfield investments and aggregate demand has hit a low.
The RBI has hinted at 7.1 growth against higher projections. Manmohan Singh has predicted that it will be one or two per cent less. Besides foreign investments are falling, he said.
On the Parliament logjam, Chidambaram said the Opposition was only pressing for the Prime Minister’s presence in the House during the debate or discussion on the matter.
“Is it an unreasonable demand? Why is the ruling party afraid when they have a majority in Lok Sabha. The Prime Minister should come and face the discussion under Rule 184 followed by voting,” he said.
On the remarks made by RSS ideologue S Gurumurthy that newly-introduced Rs 2000 banknote be phased out, Chidambaram said, “I will not be surprised if this government takes such a step.”
Responding to query why the Rs 2,000 note was brought in and that it could encourage black money, Gurumurthy, also a co-convenor of Swadeshi Jagran Manch, had yesterday said in Delhi, “In the short time of two months you do not have time to print Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes. This 2000 rupee note must be phased out.”
He had equated demonetisation decision to “Financial Pokhran”.