Opp alleges ‘leak’, wants JPC probe

Demonetisation issue rocks Rajya Sabha

Trinamool supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah, AAP MP Bhagwant Mann and others march towards Rashtrapati Bhavan over demonetisation issue on Wednesday. (PTI)

New Delhi: The winter session of Rajya Sabha opened on Wednesday with a united opposition mounting an assault on the government over demonetisation, saying it had led to “economic anarchy” in the country and alleged selective leak of the information before the announcement which should be probed by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC).
The government rejected as baseless the opposition charge that there was “leakage” of the November 8 decision and said everyone was taken by surprise which is why there are “initial” problems.
Joining ranks over the raging issue, parties like Congress, JD(U), RJD, SP, BSP, Trinamool Congress, Left and AIADMK slammed the government, particularly targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for making Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denomination notes invalid and said the “ill-timed” and “ill-conceived” step had severely hit the common people, the farmers and the poor.
During a discussion on demonetisation, which was taken up after suspension of all business in response to notices given by a host of opposition members, a scathing attack was made on the government which strongly defended the step as one taken in national interest and to end corruption and black money, which it linked to terror activities in the country.
Alleging that the information had been leaked to BJP units and ‘friends of BJP’, a number of opposition parties demanded a JPC probe into it.
During the course of 7-hour debate which remained inconclusive, there were repeated demands by the opposition members that the Prime Minister should be present in the House to listen to the members. Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said Modi, who did not come to the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, should at least be present on Thursday and possibly intervene.
Initiating the debate, Congress leader Anand Sharma used wit and humour to attack Modi, saying he was “insensitive” to problems caused to the common man.
The “ill-timed” and “ill-conceived” move has unleashed “economic anarchy” in the country and benefited a few, he said.
Questioning the government’s contention that the step was taken to end the menace of black money, the former Union Minister said a bigger Rs 2000 note has been brought which is similar to the paper on which ‘churan’ is sold and “sheds colour”.
Sharma alleged that the information on demonetisation was selectively leaked. “Your BJP units have deposited crores of rupees (just before the November 8 decision),” he said.
He quoted some media reports and said State Bank of India knew of the decision way back in March.
Among those who demanded a JPC probe were Congress’ Pramod Tiwari, JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav and CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury.
He said the government, in one stroke, took away 86.4 per cent of the over Rs 16 lakh crore currency in circulation. “Did the government think that 86 per cent of the currency in circulation was counterfeit or blackmoney,” he asked.
Power Minister Piyush Goyal, who spoke on behalf of the ruling side, 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 it 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.
Listing the benefits of the move, Goyal said interest rates will come down, inflation would be curbed and even the tax rate will come down.
“If 5 people don’t pay tax, the brunt is borne by the rest of 95 percent people. And if taxes are paid, there will be more money with the Centre to carry out welfare works for farmers, women, SC and ST sections,” he added. (PTI)