On the eve of the December 30 deadline for depositing scrapped notes, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has warned that “holders of black money” may have “a few days to hide”, but “the government has the time, mechanism, and most importantly, the will to seek them out”.
In an interview to India Today magazine, Modi said: “When money returns to the bank, it loses its anonymity… Every rupee leaves a trail. This changes the game as the black money that did not have an address till now has been tagged with one. We now know who has it, where and when. Holders of black money may hide behind the bank accounts of others, but unlike cash holdings, they can be traced.”
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“In this game of hide and seek, they have a few days to hide, but the government has the time, mechanism and, most importantly, the will to seek them out. More interestingly, with the existence of such trails, the identification of one culprit invariably leads to the unearthing of even larger sources and schemes of corruption,” he warned.
He said that after November 8, “black money has all been forced out into the open, whomsoever it may belong to — whether it is corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen or professionals. Counterfeit notes, which our intelligence agencies had reported to be available in high volumes with our enemies, have been instantly neutralised.”
With regard to the frequent changes in rules post-demonetisation, Modi said “one must be able to distinguish between niti (policy) and ran-niti (strategy) and not put them in the same basket.” He said the demonetisation decision, which reflects his government’s “niti”, is “unequivocally clear, unwavering and categorical”. “Our ran-niti, however, needed to be different, aptly summarised by the age-old saying of ‘Tu daal-daal, main paat-paat’. We must stay two steps ahead of the enemy,” he said.
Amid criticism that the demonetisation exercise did not achieve the desired results, he said: “We took the decision not for some short-term windfall gain, but for a long-term structural transformation. Our objective was to clean our economy and society of the menace of black money, purging the distrust, artificial pressures and other ills that came with it.”
Following criticism from some economists, Modi said the decision is so huge that “even our best economists remain confused in their calculations.”
Targeting the Opposition, he said “this fashion of reducing any talk of corruption to politics is a dangerous trap… I pity some of our opponents, especially the Congress leadership, for the desperation they have been exhibiting… On the one hand, they say I took this decision for political dividends, and on the other, they say the people have been troubled and are deeply unhappy. How can the two go together?”