After a surprise announcement by prime minister Narendra Modi on 8 November to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 bank notes, BJP MP Subramanian Swamy made his unhappiness with the government very clear. He told South China Morning Post that the confusion over currency and chaos at banks at automated teller machines (ATMs) and banks was because of poor planning and execution on the government's side.
CNN News18 reported that Swamy said that while excuses can be made for ministries not being in the loop, it was inexcusable that they did not have a contingency plan. "Ad hoc roadside kiosks should have been set up for all and special kiosks organised for senior citizens. All these should have been planned as part of a contingency plan,” Swamy was quoted as saying, by the CNN News18, in Hong Kong. Swamy was present there to give a talk about the anti-corruption efforts that India is currently engaged in.
Banks have struggled to dispense cash following the government's decision to withdraw large denomination notes in an attempt to uncover billions of dollars in undeclared wealth. Tempers frayed as hundreds of thousands of people queued for hours outside banks for a fourth day to swap 500 and 1,000 rupee bank notes after the notes were abolished earlier in the week. The banned bills made up more than 80 percent of the currency in circulation, leaving millions of people without cash and threatening to bring much of the cash-driven economy to a halt.
"There are around 125,000 branches of public, private, regional and rural banks across India and 20 RBI regional offices from where currency chests are dispatched to all these locations. But that is not happening quickly enough although RBI has received full currency stocks from the printing presses," said All India Bank Employees Association vice president Vishwas Utagi. The situation was worse in small towns and far-flung rural areas where there were few bank branches and very limited ATMs and people were unable to exchange old notes or carry out banking transactions, he said. In Patna, a group of angry people broke the locked gates of a bank and forcibly entered it in Bihar's Gopalganj district after being told there was no cash, police said.
Amid this on-going unrest around ATMs and banks, on Saturday, finance minister Arun Jaitley said that though people will face an inconvenience in the beginning, the long terms benefits are much larger. He also said that it would take ATMs two or three weeks to function properly as they have to be recaliberated to dispense the new currency. This statement has not sunk well with people as it will delay getting liquid cash. Jaitley said that it would take an estimate of 21 days in order to recalibarate all the 2 lakh ATMs in the country.
Modi on Sunday sought 50 days to tide over the nationwide cash crisis. Addressing a public rally in Goa, Modi made an impassioned plea to citizens to give him until December 30 to weed out the ill-gotten wealth in India. "I know what kind of powers I have taken on. I know the kind of people who will be against me now. I am looting what they had accumulated over 70 years," Modi said at an indoor stadium in Bambolim village near Panaji.
"They will not leave me alive. They will destroy me. Let them do what they want. (For) 50 days, help me. The country should just help me for 50 days.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal requested Modi to roll back the scheme and first jail those with illegal Swiss bank accounts. The Aam Aadmi Party leader warned that if the massive cash crunch continued, it could lead to law and order problems that could spiral out of control. He took on Modi for demanding 50 more days to streamline the system. "Does this mean that the markets will remain closed for the next 50 days? How can farmers survive? Will people keep standing in queues for 50 days? He is only giving an emotional speech."
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has been very critical of the demonetisation, called for an opposition front against Modi and even telephoned CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury. She said she and other political leaders would meet President Pranab Mukherjee over the issue this week.
With inputs from agencies