Demonetisation—Chidambaram’s posers; Jaitley’s response

<b>After former FM P Chidambaram posed hard-hitting questions to the Government on demonetisation, FM Arun Jaitley hit back, said Government now ready for a debate in Parliament</b>

Photo by Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

NH Political Bureau

Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Tuesday demanded a ‘criminal investigation’ by a Special Investigating Team (SIT) into demonetisation and its fallout. Addressing a press conference at Nagpur, the former Finance Minister posed the following questions to the Government:

  • Currency moves from printing presses to the RBI (chest) and from there to the banks. From which point are new currency worth several crores finding their way to hoarders?
  • While the Government has so far ordered inquiries by the Income Tax Department, this was not enough. It required an investigation by a SIT, he said.
  • Why are people not able to draw Rs 24,000 per week, the ceiling which the Government itself had fixed after presumably having done its own calculations?
  • Bank after bank is telling customers that they have no cash while the Government and the RBI claim there is no shortage of cash. Where is the cash?
  • What is the rationale behind allowing urban cooperative banks to exchange old notes for new but not the district cooperative banks and the rural cooperative banks?

P Chidambaram—Daily wagers hit hardest by sudden demonetisation

As many as 45 crore people in this country, said Chidambaram, depended on daily wages. While 15 crore of them work for others and are paid wages, the remaining 30 crore are on their own and do odd jobs as loaders, masons, plumbers, milkmen, vegetable vendors and so on. These are the people who have been hit the hardest by the Government’s decision to suddenly withdraw 86% of the currency in circulation.

Dismissing the Government’s plea of ‘secrecy’, the former Finance Minister pointed out that at least 100 officers were involved every year in preparing the union budget and yet nothing was ever ‘leaked’. So the Prime Minister not consulting others for the sake of secrecy, he quipped, did not wash.

Surely the Prime Minister could have consulted former finance minister Yashwant Sinha at least, he asked, adding ‘he is their own man’. Or Manmohan Singh. “He would not have leaked it,” said Chidambaram.

Jaitley rebuts

Within hours of Chidambaram’s press conference, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley hit back by saying that during 2004-14 currency notes of high value denomination went up from 36% to 86% and the NDA was trying to return to low value currency notes in circulation. The Government was committed to remonetise currency notes as fast as possible, he added and declared that the Government was ready for a debate on the issue in Parliament.

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Published: 13 Dec 2016, 3:22 PM