Addressing the nation on New Year’s eve, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the country’s banking system must be brought back to normal at the earliest. He also urged banks to come out with schemes for the poor and disadvantaged.
Modi – in his 50-minute speech – said banks are flush with an unprecedented amount of money due to the demonetisation exercise, and this will allow them to implement schemes for the poor and the middle class. “Keeping in mind the independence of banks, I want to appeal to them to focus on the poor, middle class and the underprivileged… banks must work for the benefit of the poor, and not let this opportunity go,” Modi said without chalking out any specific programme. Over Rs 12.5 lakh crore has been deposited into the banking system since November 10.
Thanking all bank employees, including banking correspondents who primarily work in rural areas, the Prime Minister noted how all such financial institutions remained open on holidays and even weekends for the first few weeks of the exercise. “Most banks also extended their working hours to cope with the increase in demand for currency,” he added.
However, Modi was quick to add that “a few officials who indulged in misconduct” in the last one month will not be spared. He was referring to certain bankers and Reserve Bank of India officials who were suspended for their alleged involvement in money laundering and other financial misdeeds.
The central bank has asked banks to preserve all CCTV footage between November 8 and December 30 to ensure that no erring bank official was spared.
Modi took the nation by surprise on November 8 with an unexpected announcement that currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations would
be withdrawn. While the exercise did help flush up some black money, it also caused a country-wide currency crunch that was condemned by Opposition parties.