It has been almost two weeks since the government made the announcement to demonetise Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes in what was celebrated as an unprecedentedly bold move to curb black money. But as the harsh reality of long queues and even deaths sets in, the opposition parties have wasted no time in blasting the government.
P.Chidambaram, Congress leader and former Finance Minister called the ‘surgical strike’ on black money ill-conceived, pointing out that there were rumours that the Chief Economic Adviser was not among the four officers in government who knew about the demonetisation plans. Laying out the various negative effects of the move in this column in The Indian Express, he says that the impact on productivity has not been factored in given that many working people had to stand in long queues outside ATMs to withdraw money. He also said that wholesale markets shut down as did several industrial towns. Chidambaram claims that the new moves will not in any way stop counterfeiting, end bribery or plug the generation of black money.
No major economy is entirely free from the scourge of a black or shadow economy. According to a World Bank study, the shadow economy in the US is 8.6 per cent of GDP (or about USD1,600 billion); in China 12.7 per cent (about USD 1,400 billion); and in Japan 11 per cent (about USD 480 billion). India’s shadow economy is estimated to be USD 500 billion (22.2 per cent of its GDP of USD 2,250 billion). It is large, but not unusual, and the good news is that its size is shrinking.
The Congress is on an all out attack mode. Days after the demonetisation was announced, Rahul Gandhi stood in queue at an ATM at Delhi.
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi listening to people's woes as they try & access their hard earned money, SBI ATM, Vakola, Mumbai pic.twitter.com/yGcKvl1icR
The Trinamool Party has also resorted to a similar tactic. Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamta Banerjee paid a surprise visit to Burrabazaar, a market in Kolkatta.
The Aam Admi Party and Trinamool Congress addressed a joint rally in Delhi where they called on the government to roll back the demonetisation. Banerjee claimed that the Prime Minister has lost touch with realities of India and blasted the government -
This decision may take the country 100 years back. The government is coming out with a decision every day. The day before yesterday it was said the limit for exchange is Rs 4,500, today you say it is Rs 2,000.The other day it was said indelible ink will have to be put on fingers. What is going on? Are we servants, are we thieves and you are honest. Is everybody a thief?
Kejriwal and Mamata rally gets huge crowds.When asked who is responsible for death of 40 people so far. Crowd roared "Modi".
Trinamool Congress leader Derek o Brian also said that the TMC would put political differences and egos aside to come together on the issue. In an interview to the Indian Express he said
We want a vote in both Houses because this is the time to stand up and be counted. We will do all that can be done within the parliamentary mechanism to raise this issue. Some parties want a joint parliamentary committee. They are entitled to their view and we respect their view.
The Congress too hinted that all opposition parties were united on the issue and wanted a debate in the Rajya Sabha under Rule 56 while the government wanted a debate under rule 193 which doesn’t entail voting. Catch News reported Congress’s Malikarjun Kharge as saying
The Modi dispensation has completed two-and-a-half years in office, but has failed to come out with the list of people having accounts in Swiss banks
In Tamil Nadu, the DMK too has come out against the move by calling attention to the suffering of small traders, vendors and the general public.
They also opposed the move to use indelible ink, usually used during elections, to prevent people from repeatedly visiting banks to exchange old currency notes. This proposal was made earlier by the government. Economic Affairs Secretary, Shaktikanta Das said -
It has come to notice of the government that in many places the same people are coming back again and again and we have also received reports that certain unscrupulous elements who are trying to convert black money into white have organised groups of innocent people and are sending them from one branch to another branch to exchange notes and get Rs 4,500.
All is quiet in the land of Amma. Even though the senior-most minister in the Jayalalithaa cabinet, O Panneerselvam holds the finance portfolio, the AIADMK has not spoken its mind on the problems arising due to demonetisation. Only the Cooperatives Minister Sellur K Raju has issued a statement pointing to the inability of farmers to get new deposits when samba crop cultivation has begun.
One of the biggest surprises, however, is that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has come out in support of the move, refusing to band with the opposition in their criticism of the government. Rajeev Kumar writes in The Financial Express -
Reports have claimed that the reason behind Nitish’s support to Modi’s move is the growing bonhomie between the two leaders, especially after Kumar’s apparently strained relationship with Lalu Yadav in Bihar. That it is just realpolitik. However, if you follow the Bihar CM, you would know that Kumar is not the kind of politician who would jump on any issue just for the sake of showing his opposition.
And in Uttar Pradesh which heads to the polls next year, the Bahujan Samajwadi Party supremo Mayawati said that the government’s move is motivated by the need to divert from their failures ahead of the election. She called Modi’s teary appeal as emotional blackmail. The Samajwadi Party too has opposed the move saying that businesses have come to a standstill.
Prime Minister addressed the large crowd in Mumbai gathered at the Coldplay concert through video conferencing. He also joked about demonetisation saying that if he were to sing, the audience would demand a refund in Rs.100 notes.