West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee shot off a letter to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Urjit Patel on Thursday urging him to break his silence and oppose demonetisation.
“As the governor of the Reserve Bank of India, an autonomous institution with a great history, which issues currencies to the nation, we expect you to stand up against the demonetisation onslaught against the common people of the nation at this moment of crisis, rather than falling silent and remaining opaque,” read the letter. A copy of the letter was circulated after an hour-long meeting between the chief minister and Patel at the state secretariat.
Though Patel chose not to comment on the meeting, the chief minister told the media that she appealed to the central bank chief to raise his voice against demonetisation.
There was widespread interest around the meeting as Mamata Banerjee has emerged as the fiercest critic of demonetisation and attempted to rally political parties to oppose the Prime Minister’s move and also lashed out at the central bank recently.
On his way back after the meeting with the chief minister, Patel faced black flags from Congress supporters at the airport. In the morning, he chose to enter the RBI building (where he attended the board meeting) through the rear gate to avoid the media.
“He listened to what I had to say with patience. But he remained silent and did not offer any comment of his. Probably, his silence is the admission of the validity of my arguments,” remarked Mamata Banerjee after the meeting.
State finance minister, Dr Amit Mitra, state chief secretary, Basudeb Bandopadhyay and the state finance secretary, H K Dwivedi were also present at the meeting. The state government representatives also handed over a memorandum to the RBI governor detailing the sufferings faced by the state government and common people because of the cash crisis resulting out of the demonetisation.
The chief minister also questioned Patel on the nature of allocation of new currency to each of the states and also raised doubts that new currency notes of high denominations were mostly channelised to the BJP-ruled states ignoring the demand from the states ruled by the non- BJP parties.
“We would also like to know from you the nature of allocation of new currency to each of the state in a spirit of transparency and accountability, since there are serious concerns of political discrimination amongst states,” read the letter.
The chief minister also dwelt on how tea workers in north Bengal are suffering because of non-payment of wages over a fortnight. “Many jute workers of our state have also lost their jobs and going back to their villages with nothing but hunger,” the chief minister said.
Two jute mills and one tea garden have already suspended operations citing demonetisation pangs in Bengal, throwing about 7,000 workers out of jobs.
When asked whether the chair of RBI governor is being used to further political objectives, the chief minister said although she do not want to cast aspersions, her demand is that no autonomous institution, especially RBI, should be used for narrow political motives.
“I am speaking not only behalf of West Bengal, but also for the sake of entire country, since the suffering of people because of the demonetisation is same throughout the country,” the chief minister said.