Traders in Kanpur, who were booked for putting up posters comparing Narendra Modi with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, on Saturday said they never intended to malign the prime minister. The prime accused among the 22 traders said they were only trying to highlight how banks’ refusal to accept small coins was affecting their businesses, The Indian Express reported on Sunday.
An FIR was lodged against the 22 traders after hoardings that read “Kim has decided to destroy the world, Modi has decided to destroy business” were spotted in Kanpur on Wednesday, a day before the Bharatiya Janata Party was scheduled to hold a meeting in the city. The traders, whose names were mentioned in the hoardings, were booked on charges of provocation with intent to cause riot and statements conducing to public mischief.
The traders decided to put up the posters after banks in Kanpur refused to accept deposits in coins, claiming they did not have enough chests to keep them, the Hindustan Times reported.
“We took the initiative to make the prime minister aware of the grievances of small traders,” Raju Khanna, the prime accused whose photo was also featured on the posters, was quoted as saying by The Indian Express. “We are on the verge of shutting down.”
“After demonetisation, there are not enough currency notes available,” Khanna said. “Mostly, small traders like us get coins from customers. But the banks are not ready to accept these coins...We do not know how to run our business, and the government has come up with a rule that larger transactions have to be made through cheques.”
The traders said that several people in the wholesale grocery business have coins worth around Rs 10 lakh to Rs 15 lakh, and retailers are left with coins worth Rs 6 lakh to Rs 7 lakh each.
“We all are Modi supporters, but if the change [coins] is ruining us and our businesses, what option did we have,” Khanna was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times. “Traders are exchanging coins at 25% of their value under the batta system to get currency notes to keep their businesses afloat. This is hurting us badly.”