6 Chief Ministers to assist Centre after notes ban, but not Nitish Kumar
Chandrababu Naidu will head a team of 13 Chief Ministers assigned to assess the impact of the centre’s shock move to ban 500 and 1,000-rupee notes. The committee will look at how to aggressively introduce and promote digital payments, particularly in rural areas.
Naidu heads Andhra Pradesh and his party is a member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s coalition government. BJP leader and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is on the committee. Opposition leaders include Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik of Odisha and V Narayanasamy from Puducherry.
Missing from the team is Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who was phoned by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to serve on the committee. Kumar is the only prominent opposition leader who has enthusiastically backed the PM’s notes ban, which has irked his allies. Sources said joining the committee might have forged too sharp a fault-line in his coalition government.
On November 8, PM Modi announced that within hours, high-denomination notes would be illegal for transaction and must be deposited in banks by the end of the year. Nearly 90 billion dollars have been turned in already. But the replacement of the banned notes with new bills has been inadequate, resulting in gridlocked bans that run out of cash well before the day is over. Nearly half the country’s ATMs are still being fitted with the larger trays needed to stock the new 500 and 2,000-rupee notes. Rural India, where most of the population has no access to formal banking, has been reeling from a cash crunch.
Even so, there appears to be wide backing for the PM’s intent in unearthing and punishing black money holders.
Included on the new committee, which has 13 members in all, are Amitabh Kant, the CEO of the PM’s policy commission or Niti Aayog, and Nandan Nilekani, who led the massive Aadhar project which assigned a unique ID to each Indian linked to biometrics.
Yesterday, Nilekani, who ran as a Congress candidate for parliament in 2014 and was defeated, praised PM Modi’s reform to a news channel, saying “the note ban shock is good for India.”