The former finance minister P Chidambaram on Tuesday lashed out at the Narendra Modi government for demonetisation of high-value notes and alleged that the recent seizures of new Rs 2,000 notes in various places across the country has unearthed the “biggest scam” of the year. He also demanded a probe through special investigation team in the matter.
He pointed out that the Income-Tax officers have seized a lot of black money hoarded in new notes from different places across the country. “Rs 5.7 crore in new notes seized from bathroom of a hawala dealer in Karnataka and the I-T department also seized crores of new notes from houses of different individuals in the last few days,” he pointed out and demanded a comprehensive probe into the matter.
“When the government scrapped old denominations of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 and brought new notes of Rs 2,000, how can it be available in large number in recent seizures in Delhi, Bangalore and Jaipur and other places,” he said.
Chidambaram said how can people hoard new notes in such huge amounts in a short span. “Have those notes reached the places of such people directly from the currency printing press?” he asked and insisted a probe through Special Investigation Team (SIT).
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced their decision to demonetise Rs500 and Rs 1,000 notes on November 8 with three objectives — to curb black money, corruption and terror funding. “How can a terrorist killed in a recent encounter carry two Rs 2,000 notes and crores of rupees in the form of new currency be found. Are they reaching directly in the hands of those found with the notes? Currency notes are sent from printing press to currency chests and then to respective banks,” Chidambaram said.
A mere income tax inquiry would not solve the problem and there is a need for a special enquiry, he said while pointing out that the new notes were also found with terrorists who were neutralised by the Indian army in Bandipur district.
“There was no rationale behind the government’s move and it did not serve the purposes of banning the high-value notes as the government wanted to wipe out corruption, stop the funding system of terrorists and end of the fake currency in the country. Has this stopped corruption, black money? The objective is not being served. Only poor people are being punished,” the former finance minister said.
Ridiculing the Modi government’s “thoughtless move”, the senior Congress leader said the goal keeps shifting and now it’s no longer about black money, but the government has found a new one called cashless economy. “How can our country go 100 % cashless from just 3% in a short span of few months ?” he asked.
Describing the government decision to ban the high-value notes as thoughtless and meaningless move and it would reduce the growth rate of GDP by one to two percent. “This is an absurd, thoughtless move and no one in the world, neither an economist nor foreign media has a good word for it,” he said.
The former finance minister said the Modi government should have consulted former finance minister Yashwant Sinha or the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh before taking such a decision.
He also ridiculed the government for citing secrecy for such decision. “There are over a 100 officers involved in annual budget making and till today it never leaked. What secrecy is this?” he asked.
Answering a question, he justified the opposition blockade of Parliament on the issue. “We are ready for the debate on the issue if the Prime Minister presents it in the Rajya Sabha during the debate and the speaker allows us to initiate the debate under the house rule of 184 in Lok Sabha,” he insisted and asked why the PM was not present in the house when a debate on demonetisation was underway.
According to him, over 45 crore countrymen were affected following demonetisation and 11 crore people stand in queues outside banks and ATMs every day in the country.