Prime Minister Narendra Modi played a Santa on the Christmas Day and announced two schemes to promote digital transactions and banking to make India a cashless economy. For the next 100 days from Sunday, he said, some 15,000 people making e-payments will get Rs 1,000 cash back in a daily lucky draw.
And a weekly draw can win cashless transactions prize money running into lakhs of rupees, Modi said in the year's last edition of his monthly radio broadcast 'Mann Ki Baat'.
"On the day of Christmas, Indians will get the benefit of two schemes -- Digi Dhan Vyapar Yojana and Lucky Grahak Yojana. It will last for 100 days. As such, crores of rupees will be distributed to lakhs of people," Modi said.
Traders going cashless with online payments would get an exemption in Income Tax, he announced.
And the lure doesn't stop here.
"On the occasion of Ambedkar Jayanti (B.R. Ambedkar's birthday) -- April 14, 2017, we will be conducting a bumper draw in which the winning prize will be in crores (of rupees)."
Strongly defending his widely criticised November 8 demonetisation decision, which has led to an unprecedented cash crunch across the country, Modi acknowledged inconvenience caused to people due to the ban of R 500 and Rs 1,000 currency bills.
"People are going through pain, hardship. Who won't feel the pain? I am also feeling the pain as much as people are," Modi said.
Modi has been severely criticised by the opposition at home and renowned economists abroad over the disruptive move to recall 86 per cent of the total currency in circulation, ostensibly aimed at curbing corruption and black money in the country.
The decision has caused economic upheaval and forced people in large numbers across India to wait for hours in serpentine queues outside banks and ATMs to withdraw new currency or deposit the spiked notes.
More than six weeks after the move, people are still struggling to manage even their daily expenses because the Reserve Bank of India has been able to supply enough new notes of Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 to replace the now invalid currency notes.
Modi took a dig at the opponents and thanked the people for not heeding to the "rumours".
"I congratulate people for not only enduring pain but also for giving appropriate answers to those who tried to mislead them."
Modi said he had received an overwhelming response over demonetisation. There were three kinds of suggestions, he noted, he got from the people.
"Some people have written about the problems, inconvenience citizens were facing. In the second category, people have stressed on the good work, (which is) in the interest of the nation. They also spoke about irregularities in some parts and how new ways of corruption are being devised."
"In the third category, people have supported (the move). In addition, they have asked to continue the war against black money, corruption. They have asked for stricter steps to weed out corruption, black money," Modi said.
He also took a note of parliamentary disruptions that led to the entire winter session washed away in noisy protests by both opposition as well as treasury benches.
He said he wanted a debate in Parliament on donations being given to political parties but it could not take place.
"I wish there was a discussion in Parliament on funding for political parties," he said, scoffing at rumours that there were different rules for funding of political parties.
"Law is the same for everyone, whether it is individual, organisation or a party," he said.