The government expanded on Wednesday a list of exemptions for customers to use high-value banknotes that were withdrawn in a dramatic move to stamp out illegal transactions in the economy.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley said citizens will be allowed to use Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in purchasing tickets on the Metro, medicine in pharmacies based on a valid doctor’s prescription and LPG gas cylinders for 72 hours.
Toll plazas, railway catering bills and entry tickets to Archaeological Survey of India were among the other exemptions.
“The government believes this was a big step to maintain the credibility of the Indian economy and was welcomed by society,” the minister said.
“People will realise it pays to be honest. The not-so-honest are left worried.”
Jaitley’s comments came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes will no longer be accepted as legal tender.
Under the new currency regime, Automatic Teller Machines will start dispensing new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 notes from Thursday and people can deposit the older notes in the bank.
Jaitley described the move as a “big step” to make India cashless that will lead to a rise in tax collections and bank deposits.
“It is a significant setback to the parallel black money economy – those outside the system will be forced to get into the banking system and be a part of the formal economy,” Jaitley said.
“Very few resolutions of the government affect lifestyle. This one decision will change the course of how people spend and keep money.”
The minister’s comments come on a day several opposition politicians attacked the government over the policy, saying it will hurt the poor. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi even accused the prime minister of being insensitive to the plight of farmers and poor.
But Jaitley rubbished these charges, saying farmers and others will be benefited by the new currency regime.
“The new policy expands India’s formal GDP and makes it cleaner. It pushes revenue, more money in the banking system.”
He also said reports of people indulging in illegal money conversion of large-denomination notes were exaggerated. “If anyone does it, they will run a high risk. The government and the revenue department are monitoring the situation.”