Opposition parties, including the NCP and the Congress, took to the streets against the BJP-led Union government on Wednesday to observe ‘Black Day’ on the first anniversary of demonetisation. The BJP countered the protests by holding a signature campaign in support of the move.
The NCP, led by party leaders Ajit Pawar, Supriya Sule and Vandana Chavan, took out a march from Mahatma Phule Mandai till the district collectorate. Members of the party carried placards and raised slogans against the central government. “The activities of terrorists and Naxals are going on as usual and those with black money are moving freely… our question is, exactly what has been achieved by this decision,” said NCP leaders.
Former deputy chief minister and senior party leader Ajit Pawar said he was “feeling sorry” about the BJP celebrating the anniversary of demonetisation. “… The entire opposition is on the streets to condemn the decision that led to much suffering for citizens. The BJP is celebrating it and I feel very sorry for them,” he said.
The BJP had claimed that the move would help reveal black money holders but the RBI had been unable to provide any numbers to support this claim, said Pawar. “It raises doubts about the decision taken in the interest of certain people, as the rich converted their black money into white, while cashless transactions failed to pick up pace and corruption increased after demonetisation,” he said.
In a memorandum submitted to the district collector, the city unit of the NCP said, “The citizens were misled by reasoning demonetisation as an attempt to weed out black money. Many people died during the process of exchanging old currency notes. The GDP reduced by 2 per cent. Many lost jobs”.
The Congress also staged a ‘Janakrosh’ (public fury) protest march to mark the anniversary of demonetisation, with all local leaders and party cadres joining the rally that started from the main gate of S P College and went on till the statue of former chief minister Vasantdada Patil.
The protest started with a street play that recalled “the suffering of citizens due to demonetisation”, and the city Congress later observed a symbolic “death anniversary of demonetisation”.
“Demonetisation is an economic tremor. There was chaos across the country after Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that old currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination will be banned. The citizens were made to stand in long queues to get old currency notes deposited in banks… Every citizen of the country suffered due to the decision,” said city Congress chief Ramesh Bagawe.
“The GDP has decreased by 2 per cent and 15 lakh people have lost their jobs from January to April this year. The farmers are going through a tough time and the industrial sector is going through one of its worst phases,” said the Congress leader
The small-scale and medium-scale industries had been hit the worst due to demonetisation and a large number of people in the informal sector had lost their jobs, added Bagawe.
The city Congress also organised a candle march in Camp on Wednesday evening to “pay homage to those who lost their lives while standing in queues to deposit old currency notes”.
On the other hand, the BJP campaign to mark ‘Anti-Black Money Day’ in Pune was led by MP Vinay Sahasrabuddhe. The party carried out a signature campaign and appealed to the residents to sign on it to express their support for demonetisation. City BJP chief Yogesh Gogawale, MP Anil Shirole, legislator Bhimrao Tapkir and Mayor Mukta Tilak were among the leaders present at the event.
The BJP leaders claimed that the decision to introduce demonetisation had curbed black money transactions. “The number of cashless transactions has increased. People are happy that the government has been able to bring a check on illegal financial transactions,” they said.
BJP leaders admitted that “citizens had to face problems in the beginning”, but added, “every one cooperated for the good cause for which the decision was taken”.
The BJP leaders, along with the party cadre, also took a pledge as part of their campaign. “Yes, we swear that we do not have black money. We participate in the fight against black money,” they said.