One Year of Demonetisation : PM Narendra Modi Hails Move, Opposition Not Impressed

File Picture Courtesy : The Indian Express

File Picture Courtesy : The Indian Express

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi called demonetisation “a historic and multi-dimensional success” on its first anniversary even as the Congress said the decision to scrap high-value banknotes was a “tragedy” and a “thoughtless act” that destroyed the livelihood of millions of people.

The Congress described the note ban decision as the “biggest scam” and “the largest government-abetted money laundering scheme” and asked all its leaders to participate in protests and strongly highlight the demerits of the decision, which it said is a “colossal and completely avoidable failure”.

Modi thanked the people of the country for supporting his government’s measures to eradicate black money and said Indians “overlooked” small troubles in the fight against corruption.

“In the history of any country, there are moments where every person feels they want to be a part of that moment. Every common citizen can participate in this war against corruption, black money and counterfeit currency,” Modi was seen saying in a video that he tweeted.

Modi said in the video that India was in a dire state due to corruption and black money when he became the Prime Minister and called demonetisation a step which was never taken before or even thought of in Independent India.

“People have got multiple benefits from demonetisation like reduced rate of interest for loans, a decrease in real estate prices, increased income of urban local bodies etc,” he said in a slide posted on Twitter.

He called the move a “decisive blow to terrorism and Naxalism” and said in a slide posted on Twitter that stone pelting incidents in Kashmir valley had come down by 75%, incidents of Left Wing Extremism were down by 20%, and 7.62 lakh counterfeit notes were detected.

“I bow to the people of India for steadfastly supporting the several measures taken by the Government to eradicate corruption and black money,” the Prime Minister said in a tweet. “125 crore Indians fought a decisive battle and won,” he added.

BJP leaders, including many Union ministers, also enumerated the “benefits” of demonetisation on the first anniversary of the exercise, saying it had exposed black money, forged a more digitised economy and widened the tax base.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley said the number of taxpayers has gone up and terror funding in Jammu and Kashmir and Chhattisgarh has been squeezed in the last one year but admitted a single drive of demonetisation will not do away with all the bad economic practices.

“It was an effort to change the prevalent (economic) situation. India wants to migrate from middle-income economy to a developed one. But in our system most big investments are done through black money. Even in businesses, people maintain two types of (accounts) books. People are always trying to evade taxes.”

Union minister Nitin Gadkari said the government’s demonetisation decision led to 58% growth in digital transactions and an increase in the number of taxpayers. The Centre’s scrapping of the old Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes on November 8 last year hurt those who had black money, he added.

“The decision has certainly hurt some people and we know why they are hurt. They had some black money, which became useless because of the demonetisation decision,” the senior BJP leader said.

The network of siphoning off money was so powerful in the country that in the post demonetisation days, the intelligence agencies found 2134 bank accounts linked to a single company, he said.

The Congress and other opposition parties have said they will respond with a so-called black day themed on “the country is suffering”.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi called Modi a “democratically elected autocrat”, saying “twelve months on the only thing he has wiped out is confidence in our once-booming economy”.

“Demonetisation has wiped out 2 per cent of India’s gross domestic product, destroyed the informal labour sector and has wiped out many small and medium businesses. It has ruined the lives of millions of hard-working Indians,” Gandhi said in an article in the Financial Times newspaper.

“The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy has calculated that over 1.5 million people lost their jobs in the first four months of 2017 due to demonetisation,” he added.

He said his party stood with all those people who have suffered due to demonetisation and “whose lives and livelihoods were destroyed by PM’s thoughtless act”.

“Ek aansu bhi hukumat ke liye khatra hai, tumne dekha nahin aankhon ka samundar hona (Even a single tear is a danger for the government, you have not seen eyes turning into an ocean),” he said in another tweet.

Senior Congress leader and Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha member, Shashi Tharoor said demonetisation has been all pain and no gain and slammed the BJP for going into a celebration mode.

“When we see them celebrating, I actually do not know whether to cry or to laugh. Our former prime minister Manmohan Singh had predicted that the GDP would be down by 2%, and now the figures released by the Centre state that the GDP has fallen by 2.1%,” Tharoor said.

“In short, today is a day of mourning and to mark this I removed my picture and have put black on my Twitter profile.”

Tharoor pointed out “the BJP was the biggest gainer on account of demonetisation as they were able to pump in money for the Uttar Pradesh assembly election campaign”, and added that the “real impact of the note ban will now be out in the open during the Gujarat elections”.

Tharoor’s senior colleague P Chidambaram questioned Jaitley’s description of demonetisation as an “ethical drive and moral step” even though jobs were destroyed and several businesses had closed down.

“FM (finance minister Arun Jaitley) says demonetisation was ‘ethical’. Was it ethical to heap misery on millions of people, especially 15 crore daily wage earners? Was it ethical to destroy 15 lakh regular jobs during Jan-April 2017?” Chidambaram said in a series of tweets.

“Was it ethical to force thousands of micro and small businesses to close down? Was it ethical to damage vibrant industrial hubs like Surat, Bhiwandi, Moradabad, Agra, Ludhiana and Tiruppur?” he asked. “Was it ethical to give an easy way for converting black money into white as now discovered by the government?”

Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati also accused the Centre of implementing demonetisation in a “hasty and premature” manner and suggested that the BJP observe the day as “demonetisation forgiveness day” instead of “anti-black money day”.

“The decision to implement demonetisation cosmetically appeared to end corruption in the country, but instead the corruption level increased. One after the other, acts of corruption of people linked with the BJP are coming to the

fore. Paradise Papers is the latest revelation,” she charged.

The Paradise Papers are a set of 13.4 million confidential electronic documents relating to offshore investment that was leaked to a German newspaper and released on November 5, 2017, into the public domain.

“The silence and inactiveness of the BJP government in this matter of corruption will not remain a mystery anymore, as the Modi government is now maintaining silence on almost every case,” she charged.

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