New Delhi: Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma on Friday accused the Modi government of creating “financial chaos and anarchy” in the country by demonetising Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes.
The former Union Commerce Minister in the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government said he also raised his concern about the government’s “no information to the people” on the issue with Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
The Congress leader said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had raised strong objection to the then UPA government’s decision.
“On January 23, 2014 in a press conference by the BJP, they opposed the withdrawal of currency notes from before 2005. They said this would hurt the common man,” said Sharma.
He further asked what right does Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Finance Minister have to put a limit on how much people can withdraw.
Sharma also dismissed as a “baseless argument” Jaitley’s contention that “terrorists and black money holders would have been alerted had the people been informed” of the government move on demonetisation.
“I asked the Finance Minister — he had called up — why people weren’t informed and given time. There are provisions in the Reserve Bank of India Act for such situations. People need to be alerted.”
“Had they been informed, people would have made arrangements. He replied, had this been done, the terrorists and defaulters who hoarded black money would have been alerted,” said Sharma.
“He said ‘they would have gone to the banks and deposited their money’. There can’t be more baseless an argument than this,” added Sharma.
Sharma further argued that in August, 2016, the finance minister had said in Parliament that the counterfeit currency in circulation was only 0.02 per cent of the total currency.
“The suspected counterfeit currency was Rs 400 crore as against Rs 16,46,000 crore in circulation. When it comes to Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination, then is even less. It is a negligible amount with regards to total currency,” said Sharma.
Sharma flayed Jaitley for saying that farmers could take payments in cheques.
“He told me farmers could take payments in cheques or use credit cards. Are they living in India or somewhere beyond the earth?”
“Our economy has significant section which is cash-based. This is not all illicit. Farmers go to mandis and use cash for transactions. The textile sector also uses cash transactions. Farm labourers and contract labourers are paid in cash.
“Which farmer carries a swipe machine when he goes to the mandi,” asked Sharma.
He also asked if the currency has been printed, then why has it not reached the banks.
“People are standing in long queues outside the banks so that they can get some liquid currency to cater to their daily expenses. The people were promised that they would have currency from November 10. The government knew there was not enough currency,” said Sharma.
“The procedures were made in a manner that common people would be delayed and face difficulties. There is not enough currency for the demand and banks are not being able to service the people. For the first time the people weren’t alerted about this change,” he added.
Sharma further said: “India has amongst the highest savings rates in the world. All this money was accounted for. What right do Modi and Arun Jaitley have to tell the people, who have savings accounts, that they will put a limit on how much one can withdraw.”