Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the nation on New Year’s eve, a day after the deadline for depositing scrapped notes expires. This will be his second television address in as many months, the first was the demonetisation announcement.
On December 31, Modi, said sources, was expected to thank the people again for bearing hardships brought in by the recall of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 banknotes that triggered a cash crunch and a bitter war with the Opposition. He could also unveil a roadmap to push cashless economy.
“This fashion of reducing any talk of corruption to politics is a dangerous trap. It creates a cover for many others guilty of the same to get away with it. But, this doesn’t mean I condone corruption in politics,” Modi told India Today magazine in an interview on Thursday.
The Opposition has been unsparing in its criticism of the move, which in one stroke wiped out 86% of the cash in circulation.
It has accused Modi of helming the “biggest scam in India’s history” and unleashing economic emergency. Some of parties have even demanded Modi’s resignation over continuing cash chaos. While announcing demonetisation, the Prime Minister had sought 50 days to bring things back to normal.
“You must understand that we took the decision on demonetisation not for some short-term windfall gain, but for a long-term structural transformation,” Modi said, describing demonetisation as a watershed moment.
The government’s objective was to rid the economy and society of the menace of black money and the ills brought by it, he said. India was close to being “Swachh from all forms of filth”.
Brushing aside the opposition’s criticism, Modi said India’s 1.25 billion citizens welcomed the move, understood it and supported it even in the face of great personal difficulties.
Note ban had “a crippling impact on dangerous and highly damaging illegal activities, such as human trafficking, and the narcotics trade as well”, he said.
The Prime Minister took on the Congress, which is leading the Opposition charge. “I pity some of our opponents, especially the Congress leadership, for the desperation they have been exhibiting. On the one hand, they say I took this decision for political dividends, and on the other, they say people have been troubled and are deeply unhappy. How can the two go together?”
Modi was also critical of Manmohan Singh who said demonetisation was “monumental mismanagement and organised loot”.
“It is interesting that the words monumental mismanagement come from a leader who has been at the helm of India’s economic journey for around 45 years -- from being the chief economic adviser to the DEA (department of economic affairs) secretary, RBI governor, planning commission deputy chairman, finance minister and prime minister -- all the while during which large sections of our society have continued to live in poverty and deprivation,” Modi said.
The Prime Minister also defended frequent changes in guidelines by seeking to make a distinction between niti (policy) and ran-niti (strategy). The changes were made to stay ahead of the people trying to exploit the loopholes.
Following the November 8 announcement, the government and the Reserve Bank of India have changed the guidelines at least 60 times.