Business India

Opposition attacks government on demonetisation, Congress calls it ‘biggest scam’

The Opposition on Thursday stepped up its attack on the government over the RBI’s annual report that revealed low efficacy of demonetisation, with the Congress terming the move to junk high currency notes as the “biggest scam” and the CPI-M demanding a “black paper” on the issue.

The Aam Aadmi Party also hit out at the Modi government and claimed that extra notes worth Rs 1.1 lakh crore were deposited in banks following demonetisation.

The Congress, AAP and CPI-M held separate press conferences to slam the government following the RBI annual report figures on Wednesday which said that of the Rs 15.44 lakh crore taken out of circulation in the November 8 demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes, Rs 15.28 lakh crore had returned to the system by way of public deposits.

Congress leader Anand Sharma accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of misleading the people on demonetisation, saying that he had repeatedly made “false statements.”

Sharma said the Prime Minister had made “false remarks” in his Independence Day speech about the quantum of black money that was unearthed after Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes were scrapped.

He said demonetisation had led to a loss of GDP of Rs 2.25 lakh crore and the Prime Minister was “directly responsible”.

“People will accept the truth, they can also accept that a mistake has been made, but it is wrong to state repeatedly that everything done was right,” he said.

He said the Attorney General had told the Supreme Court that due to demonetisation an amount of Rs 4-5 lakh crore related to terror funding will not come back to the system.

“The government has not spoken the truth at every step. People have been misled, inconvenienced. This has been the biggest scam. Those who had illegal money, the government has helped them make it legal,” Sharma said.

CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury termed demonetisation a “money laundering exercise”.

“All of the (demonetisation) exercise’s stated objectives have failed. Normally we ask for a white paper on such issues but since Prime Minister Modi said it is fight against black money, I think the government should bring a ‘black paper’ on this,” Yechury said.

“Reportedly, more than 100 per cent of demonetised currency is coming back after Bhutanese, Nepalese and Co-op Banks Currency is taken in. This shows it was a very, very successful money laundering scheme,” he added.

Yechury said there was no mention of digitisation on November 8, 2016 but as the economy crashed, the government went out of its way “to help certain selected private companies” under the “mask of digitisation”.

“Lives, livelihoods and jobs have been decimated. This government is responsible for this…Why were people imposed with a burden of printing new notes costing Rs 8,000 crore and ATM recalibration cost of over Rs 35,000 crore in addition to the loss of economic activity estimated by the CMIE and others to the tune of Rs 1,50,000 crores?” he asked.

Yechury said that the government “must fix accountability for this disaster and punish those responsible”.

AAP leader Sanjay Singh raised questions over a figure in the RBI annual report and referred to a media report from November 2016 which cited the central bank as saying that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes worth Rs 14.18 lakh crore were in circulation.

Singh said since notes worth Rs 14.18 lakh crore were in circulation and notes worth Rs 15.28 lakh crore have come back, there is a surplus of Rs 1.1 lakh crore.

“RBI is lying to the nation. Why are they lying? Why are they giving wrong facts? They didn’t know how many Rs 500 and 1,000 notes they had in circulation?” he asked.

The AAP leader questioned whether the extra money was black money or fake notes deposited by people close to the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Singh said that Rs 21,000 crore was spent in printing new notes and now a total of Rs 1.31 lakh crore will be levied from people.

“The Prime Minister and Finance Minister should answer this, else this would be the biggest corruption in Indian history,” he added.

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