Facing opposition onslaught, government on Wednesday put up a strong defence in Rajya Sabha on demonetisation, saying the step was taken in national interest to end corruption and black money, which it is said is also used for terror activities in the country.
Power Minister Piyush Goyal, who spoke on behalf of the ruling side after Congress leader Anand Sharma slammed the government, rejected as baseless the opposition charge that there was “leakage” of the decision and said everyone was taken by surprise which is why there are “initial” problems.
“There is no politics in it. It is a step taken in national interest,” he said, adding the step will help the country in the long run.
“If anyone has the strength to take on black money and corruption, it is the BJP government and Narendra Modi,” the minister said.
He claimed that common people are out in support of the government’s move which is aimed against graft and terror and that the step will lead to curbing inflation and tax rate may come down.
Goyal claimed that the country has welcomed this initiative of the Modi government and it is natural that some people who have black money and are indulging in corruption and blackmoney are worried about it.
“Desh me imandaar ka samman hua hai aur be-imaan ka nuksaan hua hai, (The honest have been honoured and the dishonest have faced losses),” he said. “I am confident that public is understanding the initial problems because the decision was kept a secret. No honest tax-payer will lose a single rupee. The loss will be of those who have amassed wealth through corruption and black money and the public should also support the government in the move,” he said.
Goyal said some pain and difficulty in the implementation of such a decision is inevitable but despite that the people have strongly supported the move.
He urged all the parties to support the move so that the House gives a message to the country that all are against corruption and black money.
To Sharma’s charge that those questioning the government are labelled as anti-national, he said, “Understandably if someone opposes it (demonetisation), questions will be raised on whether they are against ending the menace of corruption and black money in the country.”
SBI Rs 7k cr loan ‘write off’ not a loan waiver: Jaitley
As a controversy arose over SBI reportedly writing off loans worth Rs 7,000 crore including that of Vijaya Mallya promoted Kingfisher Airlines, government and the bank on Wednesday maintained that there was no loan waiver and the liability on the borrowers still remains.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley asked opposition members in the Rajya Sabha not to go by the literal meaning of write-off.
“So there is a little bit of malapropism involved in this.
Don’t go by literal meaning write-off. Write-off does not mean loan waiver. Loan still remains. You still continue to pursue,” he said. He was intervening during a debate in the house on the government’s demonetisation action. Jaitley was replying to CPM leader Sitaram Yechury who referred to a newspaper report which said SBI wrote off loans of wilful defaulters including Rs 1,200 crore of Kingfisher Airlines. However, the member did not take any names. Congress leader Anand Sharma had also raised the issue in his speech.
The minister said: “It (write-off) does not mean that the loan ceases to be a loan. We will still chase the loan. The entry in the book changes that is from being performing assets, it become a non-performing (asset).”
Without specifically referring to the Kingfisher case, the Finance Minister said, this loan was restructured when another government was in power.
“This is the only loan for which second restructure was wanted by that government. So, we inherited a terrible legacy.
But only in the accounting book, the performing assets becomes non-performing that’s all. Otherwise the liability to pay and right to recover still remains,” he said.
SBI Chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya also sought to downplay reports of loan write-off of 63 wilful defaulters saying that they have been clubbed under a different head and efforts are on to recover loans from such defaulters.
SBI, the leader of the consortium of 17 banks, has taken physical possession of many properties including Goa’s plush Kingfisher Villa. The auction by the bank failed to attract any bidder.