Opposition flays Modi on demonetisation, he says digital transactions the future (Roundup)

New Delhi, Dec 30 (IANS) As the opposition accused the Prime Minister of changing the narrative on demonetisation and asking whether any of its avowed objectives were achieved at the end of 50-day deadline set by him, an unperturbed Narendra Modi pitched for less-cash economy and digital transactions.

On Friday, when the deadline for depositing scrapped notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 ended, the Congress dubbed the November 8 demonetisation a “decision taken without forethought”.

The party said all its stated objectives have failed and the government’s insistence on digital transactions is infested with “serious issues”, including of privacy.

“It is now abundantly clear that the whole exercise (scrapping notes) was undertaken without forethought and planning; without consulting key officials; without understanding the crucial role of money in circulation; and without assessing the capacity of the currency printing presses to supply new notes,” senior Congress leader and former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said.

He said that “events of the last 50 days have proved that none of the stated objectives has been served”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the scrapping of high-denomination currency notes on November 8 night, and subsequently sought 50 days to put things in order.

Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi sought to know from Modi the amount of black money recovered after the demonetisation.

Other opposition parties accused the Modi government of changing the narrative from fighting black money and corruption to transforming India into a cashless economy.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist questioned the government over what it said was economic mess and job loss caused by demonetisation.

“What is the government’s estimation of the economic loss to the nation as a result of this move? How many people have lost their jobs and livelihood since demonetisation was announced on November 8?” the Left party said.

“The Prime Minister must publicly declare the quantum of demonetised money that has returned to the banks. What is the quantum and value of new notes that have been printed so far? By when will the full value of demonetised money be back in the system through new notes?” the CPI-M added.

Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad accused Prime Minister Modi of eviscerating the Indian economy.

“If lungs, liver, kidneys, intestine and blood are taken out of your body, would you be able to survive? That’s what has been done with our economy,” Lalu said in a tweet.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has been at the forefront of anti-demonetisation agitation, said a democratic government should always be accountable to the people it serves.

“The Centre is saying one can withdraw up to Rs 24,000 a week, which means around Rs 96,000 a month. However, in reality, daily wage workers are not even able to withdraw around Rs 5,000 (in a month) as banks have no money,” she alleged.

The Prime Minister hit back at the opposition, saying that during the earlier United Progressive Alliance rule at the Centre, money lost in the scams made news but now the nation is talking about money coming back into the system.

He was speaking after launching an new Aadhaar-based mobile payment application in Delhi to make digital transactions easier.

“Look at the newspapers or video clips from three years ago — the news was all about what we lost in scams. However, today, it is about what has come back or what is the gain,” Modi said.

He said boosting digital connectivity will “do wonders for our nation”, as he launched BHIM (Bharat Interface for Money) app — a re-branded version of UPI (Unified Payment Interface) and USSD.

Making a pitch for digital transactions, Modi said that the day was not far off when the cash-based transaction will turn completely digital.

Meanwhile, crowds were thin compared with even a week back at banks and functional ATMs.

Although Automated Teller Machines at last seemed to hold some cash, the opinion on the cash situation was mixed.

“Nothing much has changed. We are still getting reduced amount from the RBI (Reserve Bank of India); so we are still not giving more than Rs 10,000 to each customer,” a Punjab National Bank official told IANS, declining to be named.

However, a manager at Oriental Bank of Commerce (OBC) said the cash situation is pretty smooth and that the worst days of cash crunch are now past.