Launching a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Opposition parties on Wednesday alleged selective leak of information on demonetisation of 500 and 1000 rupee notes to ‘friends of BJP’ and demanded making public the names of those who had bought gold and foreign exchange of over Rs one crore since April. Initiating a debate after listed business was suspended to take up a discussion on the 8 November decision to withdraw old higher denomination currency, Anand Sharma (Cong) used wit and humour to attack Modi for being insensitive to problems caused to the common man.
He asked the Prime Minister to state where he got Rs 23,000-24,000 crore, estimated by the International Money Watch Group, for his Lok Sabha elections. He also asked if cheque or credit card payments were made to organise his rally in Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh a few days ago.
Alleging that the information on demonetisation was selectively leaked, he said, “your BJP units have deposited crores (just before the November 8 decision).”
As the debate was in progress, BSP chief Mayawati demanded the presence of the Prime Minister in the House to hear out the Opposition parties and address their concerns. Supporting her, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said since Lok Sabha has adjourned for the day, Modi should hear out at least the major parties.
Quoting media reports, Sharma said State Bank of India – the country’s largest lender – knew of the decision way back in March and a Gujarati newspaper had in April published a report of move to withdraw 500 and 1000 rupee notes.
He demanded a probe into “how many people bought more than Rs 1 crore of foreign currency and bullion” since April. “This is a serious issue… you never kept secrecy (about the decision),” Sharma said.
The 'ill-timed' and 'ill-conceived' move had unleashed 'economic anarchy' in the country and benefited a few, he said, adding that to fight black money created by higher denomination currency, a bigger Rs 2,000 note has been brought which is similar to the paper on which churan is sold and 'shed colour'.
“Your government is insensitive,” he said, adding Modi was riding a bullet train in Japan when old, women and common man were queueing up at banks at 3 am in the morning to get currency to buy their daily needs.
Sharma said Modi had in his Goa speech had stated that those standing in line at banks were those involved in 2G spectrum and coal scam as well as holding black money.
“I condemn the Prime Minister for calling the poor standing in queue for his Rs 4,000-4,500, black money holders and scamsters,” he said.
Referring to Modi’s statement in Goa last week that certain forces were out to eliminate him, the Congress leader asked him to name the conspirators wanting to eliminate the Prime Minister of India. Congress will not tolerate anyone planning to harm the Prime Minister of the country, he said.
Taking a dig at the Modi, he said someone who “changes clothes five times a day”, has become Prime Minister and travels around the globe “calling himself a sanyasi and tapasvi”.
Sharma demanded that the names of persons holding accounts in Swiss bank and those revealed in the Leichtenstein and HSBC lists should be made public. The names of bank loan defaulters above Rs 5,000 crore should also be made public.
While the decision had put the common man to immense hardship by way of having to stand in long queues to lay hands on valid currency to meet daily needs, the information about demonetisation was selectively leaked to the “friends of BJP,” Sharma alleged.
The move had branded 86 percent of the currency in circulation black money and “everyone a criminal,” he said, adding when Modi announced the plan it was expected that adequate arrangements would be made for dispensing new notes.
So banks and ATMs were shut on 9 November but the expectation of normalcy from next day were dashed with queues only getting longer by the day.
The government policy was to “benefit those who are your friends and hurt those who question you,” he said, adding an atmosphere has been created in the country where questions cannot be asked and those doing so are branded anti-nationals.
“The magnanimous Prime Minister allowed Rs 4,000 of old currency to be changed… what right does the Constitution give the government to place restrictions on withdrawal of ones hard-earned money,” he asked, adding one has to “beg to be allowed to withdraw his own money.”
He said former RBI Governor IG Patel had written about the government’s decision to demonetise currency in 1978 and it would be absurd to think that all ill-gotten money is kept in cash and not invested in real estate, billion, equities or foreign exchange.
Modi, Sharma said, had reasoned that withdrawal of the higher denomination currency to fight against black money, terrorist funding and counterfeit currency. Congress is unequivocally opposed to black money and opposes any force that print counterfeit currency.
Sharma said the government in one stroke took away 86.4 per cent of the over Rs 16 lakh crore currency in circulation. “Did the government think that 86 percent of the currency in circulation was counterfeit or black money,” he asked.
Stating that cash to GDP ratio of Indian economy was 12-14 percent, he said farmers, daily wagers and workers do not carry credit cards, cheque books or card swipe machines in their “dhotis or tahmeds”.
Moving towards cashless economy was fine but even the most developed economies of US or Europe have not achieved that objective yet. If they had, the US central bank would have stopped printing dollars, European central bank won’t be printing Euros and UK central banks would have stopped printing pound sterling, he said.
Stating that the government had in one stroke declared everyone a criminal, he said the government and Finance Minister have stated that terrorists would have benefited if advance information on the decision was given. “Which terrorist goes to RBI with sack full of counterfeit currency to change?"
After withdrawing 500 and 1000 rupee notes, restrictions were placed even on foreign tourists who could not get their currency changed.
The Congress leader said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had informed Parliament in August that fake currency was 0.02 percent of the total currency in circulation. “If 0.02 percent by government admission is counterfeit currency, how can that be made the base to remove 86 percent of currency in circulation,” he said.
An undeclared emergency has put common people in grave inconvenience, he said. While crime money, ill-gotten wealth and that accrued through corruption or tax evasion is black money, the Prime Minister should answer if he considered money in the market, or in households, or with farmers, workers and employees as also black money.
“This question arises because a message has gone that Indian economy was run on black money… you decide but don’t brand the whole country,” he said, adding, whether the cash the farmers gets for his crop or the one he uses to buy seeds or fertilizer was black money. He said the move had rendered millions of agriculture workers and labourers unemployed.
Across the country, ATM machines are not working even after more than a week of the demonetisation decision and queues at banks are only increasing, Sharma said, adding the BJP government has not lived up to its poll promise of creating 5 crore jobs as employment is on the rise.
BSP leader Mayawati said the House should request the Prime Minister to be present and answer the members’ concerns. It is “a very serious issue”, she said, adding she has been observing Leader of the House and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, appears “sad”.
Her demand was supported by Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, who said the PM must be present in the House to hear out the concerns of various parties.
Earlier, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said he had received as many as 13 notices under rule 267 for suspension of business to take up discussion on inconvenience and hardships caused by demonetisation of currency.
He said there was a general consensus for discussion and the government too was agreeable, so the list of business as notified stands completely suspended.
Azad demanded that the PM should at least “hear out the feelings of six-seven main parties, otherwise there is a mismatch. The feelings of opposition members should be heard by PM. I demand that at least he hears them out and sit in the House at least today. We can wait for him to come.”
This was objected to by D P Tripathi (NCP), who said that as Leader of the Opposition he should not distinguish between the big and small parties.
Ram Gopal Yadav (who was expelled from SP) joined Anand Sharma to allege that information on demonetisation was 'leaked' and termed it as a scam while demanding a thorough probe into it.
“A BJP leader in Punjab had tweeted on November 5 about the new Rs 2000 note. How did this happen? This is an issue of concern. There is a scam in this. This should definitely be probed,” he said, alleging further that 10 percent of the people have 90 percent of wealth of the country and the remaining 90 percent do not have anything.
The common people, especially the poor and the housewives were put to great hardship through this move and if elections are held today they will teach this government a lesson, he said, adding that majority of women who saved money through household savings were upset with the move.
“Elections are not fought with money power. You cannot win elections through money power. No one can win elections like that. Elections are won only by winning the hearts of people,” he said.
Demonetisation of high denomination currency has created big problems to common people and a law and order situation is being created with police being deployed outside banks to control the queue.
“Do not hold elections now. If you meet and ask for votes from housewives in villages, they will beat you up with belan and you will have to embalm your back with turmeric,”he said, adding that you might lose elections if you hold early polls.
Yadav said the entire House was against corrupt and drug money, but lamented that an impression is being created that those opposing this are against curbing black money which is erroneous.