Opposition leaders on Friday blamed the government’s demonetisation exercise for the current economic slowdown. On the third anniversary of the announcement, several Twitter users chastised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for cheating the nation.
On November 8, 2016, Modi had announced that the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes that were then in circulation would no longer be valid. Citizens were given less than two months’ time to exchange the notes for the new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 notes. Modi said the decision was taken to wipe out black money and to combat terror financing.
Interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi called demonetisation the “single most appropriate metaphor for the ill-conceived governance model” of the BJP. “Today is the third anniversary of ‘Tughlaki blunder of demonetisation’, inflicted by a tyrannical government hell bent upon attacking livelihoods and lives of its own people,” she said in a statement. The note ban exercise was a “preposterous measure fuelled by false propaganda, which did untold damage to innocent and trusting countrymen”, the Congress leader added. She asked the government to specify what demonetisation had achieved.
“The prime minister and his colleagues have stopped speaking about demonetisation since 2017 hoping that the nation will forget,” Gandhi added. “Unfortunately for them, the Congress will ensure that neither the nation nor history, forgives or forgets it. Because unlike the BJP, we serve in the ‘national interest’.”
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi called demonetisation a terror attack on Friday. “It’s three years since the demonetisation terror attack that devastated the Indian economy, taking many lives, wiping out lakhs of small businesses and leaving millions of Indians unemployed,” he tweeted. “Those behind this vicious attack have yet to be brought to justice.”
Rahul Gandhi’s sister and Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra called the move a “slayer of all evils”. “It proved to be a disaster that has all but destroyed our economy,” she said in a tweet with the hashtag ‘DeMonetisationDisaster’. “Anyone want to claim responsibility?”
The Congress is carrying out a 10-day nationwide protest against the state of the economy. The party will also hold a joint rally with other Opposition parties at the Ramlila ground in Delhi on December 1.
The Youth Congress, which blamed demonetisation for the current economic slowdown, will protest outside the Reserve Bank of India in New Delhi on Friday. “The protest is to seek an apology from the Modi government for ruining and wrecking the Indian economy,” Youth Congress President Srinivas BV told the Hindustan Times. “Even three years later, it remains a mystery, why the country was pushed into such a disaster.”
Party spokesperson Amrish Ranjan Pandey said more than 100 lives were lost due to demonetisation.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee called it a futile exercise that had a negative impact on the economy. “Today is the third anniversary of #DeMonetisationDisaster,” she tweeted. “Within minutes of announcement, I had said that it will ruin the economy and the lives of millions. Renowned economists, common people [and] all experts now agree. Figures from RBI have also shown it was a futile exercise.” Banerjee was a vocal critic of demonetisation since the day it was announced.
The West Bengal chief minister said the “economic disaster” started on the day demonetisation was announced. “…Look where it has reached now,” she said. “Banks stressed, economy in a complete slump. All affected. From farmers to the young generation to workers to traders, housewives... everyone is affected.”
State Bharatiya Janata Party General Secretary Sayantan Basu said the chief minister should not comment on matters she could not comprehend. “It would be better if she takes concrete steps to revive the economy of the state instead of trying to score brownie points in politics,” he told PTI. “The economic slowdown is due to global economic crisis. All nations are affected.”
Basu added that not a single industry had been set up in the state during Banerjee’s term, adding that she should look for ways to improve the economic and industrial situation.
The hashtag #DeMonetisationDisaster was trending on Twitter since morning. Many users highlighted how demonetisation failed to achieve any of its stated goals. They said the note ban was responsible for derailing the economy.
A day ahead of the third anniversary of demonetisation, former Finance Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg suggested that Rs 2,000 notes can be demonetised as a large chunk of them were not in circulation, reported The Indian Express.
“Rs 2,000 banknote accounts for approximately 1/3rd of currency notes in circulation in value terms,” said Garg, who took voluntary retirement last month after being shunted out of the high-profile finance ministry. “A good chunk of Rs 2,000 notes are actually not in circulation, having been hoarded. Rs 2,000 note, therefore, is not presently working as a currency of transaction. It can be demonetised, without causing any disruption.”
In his 72-page note, Garg said India’s fiscal management system “uses practices that are not sound and stable and runs levels of deficits and debt which are high and unsustainable”.