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As it crossed swords with a combative Opposition on the opening day of the winter session of Parliament, the government, defending the demonetisation of higher denomination currency notes, said the decision was taken “in the interest of the nation” and those opposing it will be asked if “they support black money and corruption”. Somewhat stumped by the readiness of the government to discuss the issue, the Opposition tore into the government for being “insensitive” to the problems being faced by people across the country in the wake of the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. Calling it the “biggest scam”, the Opposition claimed the decision to demonetise the notes had been “selectively leaked” and sought a probe.
Leading the Opposition charge in Rajya Sabha — Lok Sabha was adjourned for the day after obituary references — Congress leader Anand Sharma rejected the government contention that the move was aimed at stamping out black money and counterfeit currency. Targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he alleged that the government had painted the entire people of the country as criminals.
Union Minister Piyush Goyal hit back, saying the entire country had welcomed the decision. He said only some were upset because they had been hit by the move. “For the first time, the honest have been honoured and the dishonest have suffered losses.”
As Sharma pointed out that monetary policy is in the domain of the RBI, Goyal said the Prime Minister has the right to take a decision and there was never a situation for an ordinance to be brought. “RBI formulates the monetary policy and the Reserve Bank board took the decision. And on the basis of that decision, the 500 and 1,000 notes were scrapped,” he said.
Apart from weeding out black money and curbing corruption, the demonetisation step, Goyal said, has other benefits like making the economy honest, payment of taxes in full, and reining in interest rates, inflation and tax rates. Details of those who had stashed money abroad could not be revealed, he said, since it would impair an ongoing probe. After this move, he said, every individual will think twice before indulging in corruption and black money.
“It is such a step on which we thought there will be all-round support in the House… It is unfortunate that these political parties are opposing the decision for some reason or are they worried because the public has liked and applauded the move… people are saying the country has, for the first time, seen a Prime Minister and a government which is actually waging a swift and concrete battle against black money, corruption and terrorism,” Goyal said.
“It is in the interest of the nation… So if somebody says we are opposed to this… then it is natural for someone to ask, are they supporting black money and corruption that they are opposing such a good move.”
He said it has been alleged that the Modi government is with traders and businessman. “Had it been like that and had there been any substance in your allegation, then such a step to curb black money would not have been taken.
This step proves only the BJP has the strength to fight against black money and those indulging in corruption.”
The Congress, on the other hand, sought a probe into what it called “selective leak” of the move to demonetise the higher denomination notes. “You never kept the secrecy. This information was selectively leaked. Your BJP units have deposited crores… So it is my demand that this House fix the government’s accountability. There should be a probe to find out how many people had purchased gold, foreign currency and invested in bullion for over one crore from April to November 8,” Sharma said.
“There is something called global financial integrity unit. They have come out with a report… on the amount of money which has left India between April and September. Bring all these things to light. Make public the list of those people. You have caught hold of the poor and painted him as a black money trader and criminal… there is no list of those who have fled with money. Because when the list will come out, Hindustan’s biggest scam, in the name of rooting out black money, will be revealed. That should be probed,” he said.
Sharma also asked the government to reveal the names of all those who who have taken loans of over Rs 500 crore from banks and defaulted. “You have, in the last two years, restructured loans to the tune of 50,000 crore and 80,000 crore. You have waived loans worth thousands of crores. Tell us the names of those whose loans you have waived. You have not waived the loans of farmers. Who benefited? Your friends benefited while those who asked questions suffered,” he said.
Referring to the Prime Minister’s emotional speech in Goa where he said he had left his home and family for the country, Sharma said “roam around the world, change clothes five times a day and then say “sab tyaag, tapasya ho gayi.”
Earlier, speaking to the media at Parliament House, the Prime Minister called for a fruitful session. “I feel a very good debate will take place in this session too. All parties will have the best of contribution. Best of efforts will be made to take all parties along in completing government business. We are ready for an open debate which will lead to good and important decisions,” he said.
Modi recalled that during the monsoon session, Parliament took an important step for realisation of the dream of “one country, one tax”. Alluding to the passage of the Constitutional amendment Bill to facilitate the Goods and Services Tax, he said: “That day too, I had thanked all parties. When all parties work together in national interest, good decisions are taken and they are taken fast. It also gives good results.”