Former Finance minister P Chidambaram on Tuesday hit out at the Union government terming the demonetisation move as the “biggest scam of the year” and demanded that it be investigated. “It has broken the back of poor people, a case of khoda pahad nikli chuhiya,” Chidambaram said, adding that “not even a national calamity would have caused so much suffering”. The former minister was addressing the media at an event in Nagpur.
“This is an absurd, thoughtless move, and no one in the world has a good word for it. Every major newspaper and economist has condemned it,” Chidambaram said, adding that the government should have at least consulted economists before taking a decision. “Government should have consulted at least Yashwant Sinha, he is their own man. They could have consulted Mr Manmohan Singh. There are over a 100 officers involved in budget making, till today its never leaked. What secrecy is this?”
Questioning the rationale behind the government’s move, Chidambaram asked how demonetisation has benefited the country. “Has this stopped corruption, black money? The objective is not being served by this. Only poor people are being punished,” Chidambaram said, adding that the goal post keeps shifting. “It is no longer about black money… now they have found a new one called cashless economy,” he said, adding that to assume that India will go from 3 per cent to 100 per cent cashless, in a matter of few months, is an outlandish expectation. “It is like motherhood and apple pie. No one speaks against them, similarly no one will speak against cashless society.”
On banks being unable to provide cash to customers, Chidambaram asked whether the government made any attempts to calculate how much cash would be necessary. “What calculations did the government do to say that one can withdraw Rs 24,000 when banks don’t have enough cash to dispense? 45 crore people have been affected due to this, who will compensate them?” He also asked why District Cooperative Central Banks were kept out, adding that as a result of which farmers were suffering as there was no money to buy seeds, hire labour or purchase fertilisers.
Chidambaram also defended the Opposition’s strategy in Parliament questioning why the Prime Minister should not be present in the House when a debate on demonetisation was underway. “How is it an unreasonable demand? Why shouldn’t the PM be present in the House when we are discussing demonetisation? He should listen to us”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8 announced that notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 would no longer be legal tender, in a move, he claimed, was aimed at targeting black money, counterfeit currency and terror financing. The Prime Minister’s move, however, has faced severe criticism from across political parties for the government’s failure in proper implementation and poor planning.
In subsequent addresses, the Prime Minister said it would take 50 days for the hardships to ease out, but experts say it would take at least three months, if not longer, for normalcy to return.