Note ban 'most terrible' decision of Modi Govt: PC
Opposition in Rajya Sabha on Thursday tore into the government for presenting a "disappointing" budget, with Congress leader P Chidambaram terming note ban as the "most terrible" decision and alleging that graft and black money have continued to thrive and large sections adversely affected.
The former Finance Minister also criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the words he chose to attack his predecessor Manmohan Singh,
saying he should remember that the Chair he sat on was used by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and even Atal Bihari Vajpayee and hence he should
use right language.
Initiating the discussion on the 2017-18 General Budget, he accused the government of "fumbling, bumbling, scrambling" and inventing a new narrative every day.
Observing that he saw his first Rs 2,000 note four days after it came into circulation, he said there were many who were caught with crores worth new notes stashed away.
"This is the biggest scam of 2016 ... Where did they get these notes from? Did these go directly from the RBI press to them," Chidambaram
"This means that corruption and black money have thrived after demonetisation... The NSSO says 15 crore people in this country are daily wage earners. 25.5 crore workers are daily income earners. 40 crore people were completely devastated by demonetisation for eight weeks. These 40 crore people may forgive you, but they won't forget the experience," he said.
Questioning the remonetisation process, he asked "why should you demonetise and then remonetise" and said that the government has
replenished Rs 9 lakh crore worth of new currency notes as against Rs 17 lakh crore old notes that went out of circulation.
Chidambaram said the government had inherited an economy that, in the last two years of the UPA rule, had grown by 6.1 and 6.9 per cent respectively. "The average for the 10-year period is 7.5 per cent. India is among the fastest growing large economies in the world. But through 2016-17, you made a series of mistakes, capped by the most terrible mistake", he said pointing at demonetisation.
He also asked why was the government shying away from giving a GDP number even while giving an estimate.
Terming the budget as a "great disappointment", he estimated that 2016-17 will see a hit on GDP by 1-1.5 per cent and "if very unlucky", then even 2 per cent and warned that this trend will spill over into 2017-18 also.
Observing that the government withdrew 86 per cent of currency overnight, Chidambaram spoke of a large number of ATMs still not functioning.
He referred to a village in the national capital territoty which was declared as the first digital village in the region and said "you go there and the
people ask 'What digital?' It is very difficult to get away with a lie. The best way to do so is to utter the biggest lie."
Taking a dig at the government, Chidamabaram said RBI officials are busy counting the notes physically. "You speak about digitisation. First,
teach that to the RBI. Every rupee has come back, except in Bhutan, Nepal and NRIs, whose money can't come now, because you breached your promise to them," he said.
He also asked "if Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes are the cause of such major ills, how does Rs 2,000 note put an end to it. If 10 per cent of bank officials were dishonest earlier, now you've made all bank officials dishonest."
"It has now become easier for people used to carrying briefcases of notes as they will have to carry a smaller brief case, he said wryly.
Chidambaram gaves examples of countries which still uses cash including the US, Autralia and Austria.
"A young lady wants to buy lingerie. Why should there be a record? A young couple wants to take a secret holiday. Why should that be recorded? I want to give money to my daughter- in-law for her expenses without the knowledge of my son. Why should there be a record? An adult wants to buy adult diapers. Why should there be a record of that?," Chidambaram questioned.
"There are serious issues of privacy are involved which are respected in any democracy," he said, adding that people can't be told to go to the village fair and buy potatoes and tomatoes for Rs 7.50 and use credit cards.
"Don't even try to defend demonetisation. At least spare us the ignominy of listening to this defence," he said.
Maintaining that the budget has been "a great disappointment", he said "there is no overarching vision and goal. It has no strategy. By cutting
expenditure, you've shown that your government has no empathy for the poor. Government must lean towards the poor. After all this, what have
you achieved? You can't achieve your fiscal goal of 3 per cent.