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Demonetisation: Opposition deposits ire in Rajya Sabha

Last updated on: November 16, 2016 19:12 IST

Launching a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Opposition parties on Wednesday alleged that 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 1 crore since April.

Initiating a debate after listed business was suspended to take up a discussion on the November 8 decision to withdraw old higher denomination currency, Anand Sharma (Congress) 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 blackmoney created by higher denomination currency, a bigger Rs 2000 note has been brought which is similar to the paper on which 'churan' is sold and "sheds colour" was brought.

"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 blackmoney.

"I condemn the Prime Minister for calling the poor standing in queue for his Rs 4000-4,500, blackmoney holders and scamster," 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 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 was "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 5000 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 per cent of the currency in circulation blackmoney and "everyone a criminal," he said, adding that 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 November 9 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 branded anti-nationals.

"The magnanimous Prime Minister allowed Rs 4000 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 blackmoney, terrorist funding and counterfeit currency. Congress is unequivocally opposed to blackmoney 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 per cent of the currency in circulation was counterfeit or blackmoney," he asked.

Stating that cash to GDP ratio of Indian economy was 12-14 per cent, 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 per cent of the total currency in circulation. "If 0.02 per cent by government admission is counterfeit currency, how can that be made the base to remove 86 per cent 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 blackmoney, Prime Minister should answer if he considered money in the market, or in households, or with farmers, workers and employees was also blackmoney.

"This question arises because a message has gone that Indian economy was run on blackmoney... 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 blackmoney. 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 inconvience 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 per cent of the people have 90 per cent of wealth of the country and the remaining 90 per cent 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 and 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 the corrupt and drug money, but lamented that an impression is being created that those opposing this are against curbing black money which is erroneous.

Yadav also sought a probe into the ‘suspicion’ of leak of the demonetisation decision and said a Joint Parliamentary Committee can be constituted. He said the move by the government has led to lot of hardships in the villages and the villagers have stopped buying normal things like toothpaste and hair oil.

“If this continues, no one would buy Baba Ramdev products also and his factories will shut down,” he said, suggesting that the government should restart the scheme for people to declare their black money.

He said that the government has fixed the Basic Selling Price was Rs 1500 per quintal but because of the demonetisation, the price has come down to just Rs 1,000 and demanded that farmers should be allowed to use the old notes to buy seeds and fertilisers.

Taking note of prime minister’s remarks that he might be killed because of his move, Yadav said there should be probe to find out who these people are and precaution should be taken. He said it should also be probed if the statement was made only for political motive.

He also mentioned that off late, many messages are being spread on social media targeting the PM in ‘filthiest of words’ and the cyber cell should find out where it is originating from.

All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader Navneet Krishna said the Reserve Bank of India and the government have failed the rural people with this move which has threatened the saving habit of people.

Janata Dal-United leader Sharad Yadav, who also sought a JPC probe into the suspected leak, said the sudden move was akin to ‘throwing people out of a moving train’.

He said unlike the rich, who the PM said were standing in queue, it was the poor, handicapped and old people who were doing so to get their hands on their hard earned money.

He alleged that while loans worth Rs 7,000 crore was written-off on Wednesday by banks including Rs 1,200 crore of Vijay Mallya and said the prime minister has made the honesty of the country to stand in queues.

Yadav also took a dig at Jaitley saying he was sure that the Union finance minister was not part of the decision making on demonetisation, because had he been, Jaitley would have tipped him off. This remark left most members including Jaitley laughing.

Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury said that of the 130 crore population in the country, only 2.6 crore have credit cards.

He took a dig at Modi and narrated the infamous quote of Queen Marie Antoinette during the French revolution who had said that people can eat cakes when they don’t have bread. “We have Modi Antoinette who says ‘If you don’t have paper, use plastic’.”

Launching a frontal attack on the Prime Minister, Yechury compared him with a Roman ruler. He said a Senator had remarked about this ruler that: “I think he knows what Rome is. Rome is the mob. Conjure magic for them and they’ll be distracted. Take away their freedom and still they’ll roar. The beating heart of Rome is not the marble of the senate, it’s the sand of the Coliseum. He’ll bring them death - and

they will love him for it.”

Alleging that a BJP unit in Kolkata deposited Rs one crore in Indian’s Bank Account on November 8, he said “prove me if I am wrong.” He added that the prime minister was advertising for Paytm while talking about cashless economy. “It is no longer Jai Hind. PM is appearing for advertisements Jio Hind.”

He questioned how the cashless transactions could take place when 86 per cent of the transactions in the country took place via cash.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist leader said 1/5th of the economy is black economy and people who kept black money invested it in real estate, gold etc. That is why the imports surged and stated that it was this PM only who had stated that 95 per cent of the black money is stashed offshore and is in safe havens.

“PM is cleaning a pond to kill crocodiles but big crocodiles have survived and only small fishes are dying.”

He alleged that SBI has waived off Rs 7,000 crore of NPAs, to which Finance Minister Arun Jaitely said that written off does not means loan waiver. Yechury while mentioning Vijay Mallya said in effect the money given to the defaulter was not going to be realised. 

Yechury said by demonetising Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, the problem of black money was not going to be solved and this way the government was killing the poor.

He also demanded that corporate funding of all political parties should stop and there should be a system of state funding for elections to which Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said “why don’t you move a private members bill in this regard.”

On his charge that the government had brought in FCRA for foreign funding, Jaitley said there is only a small amendment to benefit Indian companies giving funds in Indian accounts.       

Yechury also questioned how cooperative banks were not entrusted with powers to change currency notes whereas bulks of the Indians were dealing with rural cooperative banks.

Terming the demonetisation move as “Tuglakshahi”, he said the length of queues before banks and ATMs was ever increasing and asked why the government was agonising the people.

He sought an investigation into the move, saying “let there be a joint parliamentary committee” for a proper probe. “We need to know the motive behind the move” as before every parliamentary session there is some gimmick which diverts attention from other major issues.

Launching a scathing attack on the government, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati compared demonetisation with an “economic emergency” thrust on the nation.

The move, she said, would rebound against BJP in the 2019 general elections and the party would face defeat in the assembly elections in five states including Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Assam.

“Masses are in pain. The prime minister must be sleeping after taking pills. The move is without preparedness and people will punish BJP in 2019 during general elections.

People of five states going for elections including Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab will punish BJP,” she said, adding that the poor and the middle classes were the worst sufferers.

“It is an immature decision taken in haste and the whole country feels that is an ‘economic emergency’,” she said adding that it was like a ‘Bharatbandi situation.’

“Many died not from shock but from problems. We are not opposed to flushing out black money from the system but the decision to ban notes has been taken in haste without proper preparation,” she said, adding that private hospitals were closing their doors to patients while the farmers have no money to buy seeds.

She said ATMs did not function during the initial two days when the prime minister made big claims in Japan and alleged that the BJP had resorted to corruption and people were brought to Modi’s recent rally in Ghazipur by paying money. 

“Ten months time for preparing the move was devoted to settling notes with some BJP leaders and industrialists,” the BSP chief said and sought to know why the PM has sought 50 days time when he took 10 months for his secret preparations for the move. 

At the same time, she said if the PM really wanted to curb black money, he should take action against his party leader from Karnataka who was also a mining mafia.

She also questioned the timing of the move saying all of a sudden why this move was implemented when elections were due in five states.

Photographs: PTI Photo

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