Mainstream, VOL LIV No 48 New Delhi November 19, 2016
After Modi’s Thoughtless Firman
Tuesday 22 November 2016
It was heartening to see the entire Opposition in Parliament, barring Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), close ranks in opposing the demonetisation decision of the Modi Government and its fallout throughout the country putting to great inconvenience all sections from farmers to factory workers to the white-collar employees in cities and towns, with the very notable exception of the owners of black money against whom the step is believed to have been taken. It is, indeed, most significant that every party—from the Congress to the TMC, from the National Conference of Kashmir to the Shiv Sena of Maha-rashtra, from the SP and BSP to the CPI-M/CPI—is presenting a solid phalanx against the thoughtless firman of the Government of Narendra Modi.
The pressure of the Opposition and the anger of the common people who have been made to stand in unending queues before bank branches and ATMs have compelled the government to modify partly its draconian order. The farmers have been allowed to withdraw up to twentyfive thousand rupees per week from their bank accounts. Families preparing for marriages have been permitted to withdraw up to Rs 2,50,000. But this facility can be enjoyed only by one single member of the family, not by other members, even if they have money in their respective bank accounts. However, the tem-porary relief provided to the common citizens having savings bank accounts has been withdrawn: in their case the upper limit of exchanging old notes has been brought down again from Rs 4500 to Rs 2000.
Parliament, which reopened for its winter session on November 16, 2016, has witnessed uproarious scenes in both Houses today with the Opposition sharply castigating the Modi dispensation for its decision to demonetise high denomination currency ostensibly to fight black money without taking into consideration the hardships it has caused to the common people. TMC supremo and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee has demanded that the decision be rolled back within three days, a proposal that has been rejected offhand by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Nevertheless, addressing a public meeting at the Capital’s Azadpur Mandi both Mamata and Delhi CM and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal assailed the Modi Government in no uncertain terms. Kejriwal described the demoneti-sation project as the “biggest scam” of independent India, adding: “People will deposit Rs 10 lakh crores and Modiji will write off loans amounting to Rs 8 lakh crores given to his corporate friends.” (He alleged that Adani and Ambani knew about this decision and had done the needful thereafter.) He also referred to 40 persons having died while standing before banks in queues, and asked: “Is this patriotism according to Modiji? Who is responsible for the death of these people?” The hardships that those in the urban areas are being forced to endure are quite visible but in the rural areas the citizens are facing a far worse situation. The media has highlighted their plight and brought into focus the adverse impact of the PM’s decision on food security. This too has been underlined by the Opposition leaders both inside Parliament and outside but Modi is unconcerned. This attitude can only aggravate the crisis for which he alone is responsible.
November 17 Analyst