Stepping up its attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress on Friday held his “draconian decision” on demonetisation responsible for the alleged death of 55 people and asked him to apologise to their families and the country.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala released a list of 55 persons who lost their lives while standing in queues at banks and ATMs in the wake of demonetisation and demanded compensation to their families besides probe into their death.
“The draconian decision of a dictatorial prime minister has led to 55 deaths. Who is responsible for this? The PM should apologise to the families of those who lost their lives and also to the country. His whimsical decision has led to this,” he told reporters.
He also said, “Government must pay adequate compensation to these 55 families who lost their near and dear ones. Their deaths must be investigated and consequent action taken.”
He also accused the PM of “acting first and thinking later”, alleging that no proper planning was made by his government before implementing the decision which has thrown the country into “financial anarchy and chaos”.
Surjewala said while the people of the country are facing hardship and harassment because of the “whims and fancies” of the prime minister bent upon “image building”. He alleged the PM was now dubbing all those questioning his demonetisation exercise as “anti-nationals”.
The Congress leader also demanded that the cooperative sector, which includes banks and societies, be allowed to use old currency notes as the rural economy has been “shut” ahead of the Rabi sowing season.
He said following the “Tuglaqi farman” (diktat) issued 10 days ago on demonetisation, the entire country has been plunged into “financial emergency and anarchy”, and the “hapless and helpless” people of India are languishing in long queues amid utter chaos and confusion.
“All this has been done on account of obduracy of one individual and for his image building. India has a prime minister who decides first, thinks later and listens to no one. When glaring mistakes and bungling are caught, anyone asking questions is branded as ‘anti-national’,” Surjewala said.
Surjewala alleged the Modi government has imposed “tax terrorism” across the country. The Income Tax department has “shut” the markets and it is creating “fear psychosis” among the traders and businessmen, with the small and medium sector industry being “shattered”.
“Modiji has become the new architect and symbol of tax terrorism in the country,” he said.
Surjewala said the government has changed its directions on demonetisation 18 times ever since the announcement was made by Modi 10 days ago which showed its “ill-preparedness” and “ill-planning”.
“Despite this mess, anyone asking questions is branded as anti-national. Time has come for people of India to ask as to who has acted against the national interest?” he said.
He said the country’s image globally has been dented due to the government’s action and foreign investors have taken out Rs 6,500 crore from the market.
“Foreign Institutional Investors and Foreign Portfolio Investors have lost confidence in the government. In first five days, FIIs and FTIs have withdrawn $1 billion from the economy or nearly Rs 6500 crore,” he said.
Criticising government’s decision to ink the fingers of those coming to change currency to which the Election Commission of India has raised objections, he said, “The truth is that the government’s right hand does not know as to what is being done by the left hand. Confusion confounds Modi government completely.”
Quoting experts, he said demonetisation had led to withdrawal of 86 per cent of currency in circulation and, as a result, 1,658 crore notes of Rs 500 and 668 crore bills of Rs 1000, totalling 2,327 crore notes valued at about Rs 15 lakh crore have been withdrawn.
He said the Rs 1000 rupee notes were printed by ‘Bhartiya Reserve Bank Note Mudran Private Limited’ which has the capacity to print 133 crore notes per month working in two shifts and even if it were to work for three shifts it can print 200 crore notes per month and the entire operation would take 3.5 months to complete if it prints the new Rs 2000 notes.
Similarly, Rs 500 notes are printed by ‘Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India Limited’ which has a capacity to print 100 crore notes per month and even if its capacity is doubled overnight, it will still take nearly eight months or more to print 1658 crore notes of Rs 500.
“It is thus clear that the claims of government to print new notes are hollow, deceptive and a bundle of lies,” he said.
The Congress leader said the farm sector has been worst hit by demonetisation after the government decided to unilaterally put an embargo on all cooperative banks, rural development banks, primary land development banks and cooperative credit societies from either changing old currencies or dispensing new notes.
“In one stroke, Modiji has broken the back of the entire agricultural sector. Shockingly, Modi government summarily rejected the recommendations of its own agriculture ministry, which wanted that farmers should be permitted to purchase seeds and fertilizers with old notes. Prime Minister Modi has paralyzed the entire agricultural economy,” he said.
Image: A man wrapped in a quilt sleeps as others stand in a queue outside a bank to exchange their old high-denomination banknotes in the early hours, in the old quarters of Delhi. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters