Mohd Salim: “Govt trying to manufacture consent on demonetisation”

CPI(M) leader and MP for Raiganj Mohammed Salim rubbishes the PM’s claims that the Opposition, including Left parties, joined hands to oppose the government’s stated objectives of demonetisation

Photo courtesy: facebook.com/ebaresalim
Photo courtesy: facebook.com/ebaresalim
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Sebastian PT

The Winter Session of Parliament was a washout with the Opposition parties accusing the NDA Government of deliberately not wanting the Houses to function so that a debate on demonetisation could be avoided. Prime Minister Narendra Modi though, while addressing BJP MPs, took a swipe at the Opposition—including the Left parties—on joining hands to oppose the government’s stated objectives of demonetisation. In a chat with National Herald’s Editor-at-Large Sebastian PT, senior CPI(M) leader Mohammed Salim, who represents Raiganj Lok Sabha constituency from West Bengal, rubbishes the PM’s claims. Excerpts.

Prime Minister Modi has accused the Opposition parties, including the Left parties, for opposing the apparent demonetisation objectives of fighting black money and corruption. Comment.

This demonetisation move by the PM is not a serious attempt against black money and corruption. The entire exercise, in fact, is a deliberate attempt to shift the attention from the bringing back of the black money stashed abroad, a promise made by PM Modi during the 2014 elections and about which nothing has been done so far.

The attention now has actually shifted from black money hoarders and racketeers to that of a ‘compulsory deposit scheme of the common man’. The poor, the daily wage-earners, farmers, the middle class and small businessmen are the ones suffering due to the demonetisation drive, while the super rich are unaffected.

How can the Left parties support the demonetisation move that is only causing untold miseries to the country’s poor and the marginal sections while the talk on fighting corruption and black money is falling flat?

The PM—perhaps in trying to create a wedge in the Opposition unity—quoted Jyoti Basu as supporting demonetisation in the 1970s...

The Left parties have opposed black money from the beginning and have demanded unearthing black money and attacking its sources. In the 1970s, the highest denomination of ₹100 perhaps carried more value than today’s ₹1,000; and we wanted it to be demonetised. However, now while ₹500 and ₹1,000 notes have been demonetised, the BJP government has come out with a higher denomination of ₹2,000 notes. Instead of fighting corruption, it has only helped the black money hoarders and bribe-givers and bribe-takers to carry lesser number of notes as is already evident in the various IT raids.

Besides, the situation in the 1970s and now are not really comparable. One must remember, the scale of the operation of the economy has increased many times over in the last four decades, and so has the volume of corruption. Black money takes various forms—it is in real estate, offshore illegal deposits and the like. With the world becoming a global village, black money moves out of the country at the speed of the internet. Demonetisation is not the answer to solving the problem of black money in the current situation. Many expert groups have said so; in 2012, a CBDT (Central Board of Direct Taxes) Committee had advised against demonetisation in the fight against black money, for instance.

How can the Left parties support the demonetisation move that is only causing untold miseries to the country’s poor and the marginal sections while the talk on fighting corruption and black money is falling flat?
Mohammed Salim, CPI(M)

What is your take on the PM saying that demonetisation would hit terror funding and counterfeiting of currencies?

The arguments put forward by the PM justifying demonetisation such as curbing fake currencies and terror funding doesn’t really hold water. Only fools will believe that international or cross-border terrorists carry wads of ₹500 and ₹1,000 notes to run their activities. It is a well known fact that terrorists fund their activities through smuggling of drugs and narcotics, gold bars, small arms and the like and their transactions happen mainly through internet transactions and there is talk even through bitcoins.

Speaking of counterfeit currencies, the country’s intelligence agencies are well aware of the racketeers who push fake currencies with the help from within and across the border. With hardly any new security features for the new currency notes that are being remonetised, counterfeiting them is also seemingly not difficult and there are already reports of ₹2,000 notes being counterfeited.

The government should ensure the various agencies take proper action to plug these loopholes. The PM has been silent on dealing with all these aspects.

The Opposition has accused the government of deliberating trying to avoid a debate on demonetisation, especially in the Lok Sabha. Did the government not do enough to reach out to the Opposition?

The Lok Sabha members are direct representatives of the people and we are constantly in touch with our constituents. When I travelled across my constituency and outside, I could see the suffering of the people, especially the marginal sections due to the demonetisation decision. As I moved from the city to the rural areas, I could see that the pain and hardship of the people was more. As MPs, we wanted to record the suffering of the marginal sections, the daily wage earners, the salaried class and all those hit hard by demonetisation.

The government, however, did not want any of this reality to be recorded in the House. A great PR (public relations) exercise is being undertaken with a section of the electronic media and the social media to manufacture consent for the PM’s demonetisation move, and there are efforts to suppress any dissent.

Democracy is all about discussion, debate and dissent; however, the NDA government believes in the reverse—take a decision and wipe out any dissent, debate or discussion.

Democracy is all about discussion, debate and dissent; however, the NDA government believes in the reverse—take a decision and wipe out any dissent, debate or discussion.
Mohammed Salim, CPI(M)

What should the PM do to get the support of the Left parties on the demonetisation drive?

If the PM wants the Left parties’ support, then instead of selling the concepts of cashless economy and plastic money or marketing some MNC (multi-national corporation) products, the PM should first address the problem of cash crunch. There should be adequate supply of money so that people have access to their own hard-earned money. Also, instead of the making the poor compulsorily deposit their money in banks, the government should go after the big fish. For instance, strict action should be taken against all defaulters of loans above ₹500 crore. And, PM Modi should leave no stone unturned in bringing back all the black money stashed abroad.

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Published: 18 Dec 2016, 3:02 PM