Terming the Centre’s decision last week to recall Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes as a “Mahayagna”, M Venkaiah Naidu, Union Minister for Urban Development, Information and Broadcasting, said that while the government is looking to address the inconvenience being caused to people, it has “no regrets” and “stands by the decision”. Speaking at the Idea Exchange event of The Indian Express, Naidu said, “This is our decision and we stand by the decision… There are no regrets at all but inconvenience is being addressed and we are sure that in the coming days, they will be fully addressed.”
Stating that it takes 21 days to print the new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 currency notes and around three weeks to distribute them, Naidu said the government is working on the logistical challenges, even deploying helicopters and aircraft. “We will take special measures. They (RBI officials) have been told that the situation is dynamic and we have to act fast without compromising on the safety of notes,” said Naidu, adding that he would not dwell into specifics.
Taking a dig at political opponents trying to scuttle the government’s fight against black money and corruption, Naidu said, “We are aware of the powerful vested interests and the negative campaign. While we are holding review meetings to smoothen things, they are also holding review meetings to see how they can influence public opinion and scuttle this Mahayagna and fail this great war on corruption and black money.”
On charges that the government’s decision was sudden, he said, “The secrecy had to be maintained otherwise the purpose would have got lost. There are around 82,000 bank branches and over 2 lakh ATMs, it takes time to recalibrate them or sensitise the bank branches and by the time you do (that), the information goes out.”
Naidu also pointed out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his Mann Ki Baat radio address, had clearly said that the income disclosure scheme was the golden chance for people to declare undisclosed income before September 30.
On people supporting the government despite having to stand in long queues outside banks and ATMs, Naidu said the support for the Prime Minister came because of his development model and because people believe he will fight against corruption and black money. “That is the mandate the people have given and he started implementing (that) from day one,” said Naidu.