A TOP leader of India’s largest confederation of bank officers has called for the resignation of RBI governor Urjit Patel, whom he held responsible for causing “havoc” to the economy with the unprepared decision to demonetise currency.
D Thomas Franco, senior vice president, All India Bank Officers Confederation which represents over 2.5 lakh senior officers from all nationalised, old-generation private sector, cooperative and regional rural banks in India, told The Indian Express that it is the RBI governor who should take moral responsibility for the crisis and the deaths of people including 11 bank officers in the last 12 days.
Franco said the government could have taken lessons from other countries and from its own demonetisation drive in 1978, when then RBI governor I G Patel had advised the government against the move. “We all know that neither Prime Minister Narendra Modi nor Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is an economist,” Franco said. “We have economists in RBI to take the right decisions on matters relating to economy and people’s lives. The present governor has utterly failed in his role by taking a crucial economic decision without planning, which has brought havoc to the nation’s economy and lives of the majority.”
About the shortage of Rs 100 notes, he said, “What we are getting is mostly soiled notes, reintroduced by RBI because of this crisis. As detection machines reject most of the soiled notes, it is another herculean task for bank officers to sort these out manually. Had there been a little planning, they could have printed Rs 500 and Rs 100 notes instead of printing Rs 2,000 notes. Does it mean these economists have no clue about how transactions work and currency travels in a country like India?… All the soiled notes have to come back again as they are meant to be disposed.”
Franco said the new Rs 500 notes are not available in banks even after 11 days. “When they decided to print Rs 2,000 notes in advance, what prevented the printing of Rs 500 notes? It was the RBI governor who signed all Rs 2,000 notes. Why did his team not realise that the new Rs 2,000 notes are smaller than the old Rs 1,000, forcing the bank system to recalibrate two lakh ATMs?” he said.
Franco cited reports of “misery and despair” from the ground. “People are crying at bank counters. Eleven bank officers have died due to stress. An average bank officer has been working up to 16-18 hours… Officers in the ranks of joint custodian in the currency administration cells in banks are the most affected. Many of them couldn’t even claim a half a day’s leave after working 18 hours for 11 consecutive days,” he said.
“It was very, very poor planning on the part of RBI that has led to this crisis. They did not even have a roadmap. Those who sat and rolled out the demonetisation drive didn’t have a basic idea about how the Indian economy works and transactions happen. We understand that there were no discussions with experts and stakeholders before they took the decision,” he said.
“RBI has to now count and verify all these banned notes again. When we talk about deposits of several thousand crores, we do not know how many of them were forged notes. Collection of old notes in bank branches is being done in a hurry due to heavy crowds. Before they took the decision, the total currency status in all the banks and branches in the country was a single click away for them,” he said.
WATCH VIDEO: How Demonetisation Impacts Rural Population
“The administrative hierarchies too have derailed. It is strange to see that economic affairs secretary Shaktikanta Das is announcing many decisions including the use of indelible ink without any authority while the finance secretary is mum,” he said.
“Moreover, RBI is not allowing cooperative banks to exchange currency. They are institutions with a total Rs 10 lakh crore investment and one lakh branches in the most remote areas of the country, serving a rural population of crores,” he said.
Franco said the economy is sinking; growth has been affected and think tanks predict immediate impacts will last at least 12 to 15 months.