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'Demonetisation was an attack on India's poor'

Congress piles economy heat on Modi, Nirmala

Rahul Gandhi persists with charge that unorganised sectorbeing destroyed deliberately to hand over the 'advantage to India’s biggest billionaires'
Rahul Gandhi in the second episode of his video series.

Sanjay K. Jha   |   New Delhi   |   Published 04.09.20, 02:21 AM

The Congress on Thursday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi and finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had lost the moral right to continue in office even “for a moment” for destroying the economy, which threatens to push over 40 crore people below the poverty line.

Rahul Gandhi persisted with his charge that the informal or unorganised sector was being destroyed deliberately to hand over the “advantage to India’s biggest billionaires”, adding that the November 2016 demonetisation was the first major step towards that.

Congress communications chief Randeep Surjewala said: “Why has the Prime Minister not spoken on the economic crisis so far, even as the quarterly growth has dipped to -23.9 per cent. Will feeding peacocks and changing clothes for photo shoots revive the economy?”

He added: “Both the Prime Minister and the finance minister have lost the moral right to continue in office (even) for a moment. There were timely warnings of an economic tsunami but they refused to pay heed. They rejected suggestions given by Nobel laureates, economists, experts, the Congress president, Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi….

They made fun of Rahul Gandhi when he warned against the corona pandemic and the economic devastation. Time to rise from the shackles of this ruinous government and rediscover the aspirations and hopes of India.”

Rahul, who on Thursday released the second episode of his video series on the economy, tweeted: “Modi’s cashless India was actually India devoid of labourers, farmers and small businesses. The (demonetisation) card played at 8pm on November 8, 2016, delivered its dreadful result on August 31, 2020 (when the grim economic data were released).” 

The former Congress president explained in the video: “Demonetisation was an attack on India’s poor, its farmers, labourers and small shopkeepers. Demonetisation was an attack on India’s unorganised economy.”

Recalling the debilitating shock that demonetisation delivered to the country, Rahul said: “The first question: Did it erase black money? No. Secondly, what was the benefit of demonetisation for the poor people of India? The answer is — nothing. So, who got the benefit? The advantage was given to India’s biggest billionaires. How? The money that you had in your pockets, that you had in your homes was taken and used by the government to waive the debts of these people. But that was just one goal.”

He added: “The second goal was to wipe out cash from the system. Our informal sector, which is the sector of the unorganised economy, runs on cash. Whether it is a small shopkeeper, farmer or labourer, he or she works with cash. The Prime Minister himself said that he wanted a cashless India, a cashless Hindustan. 

“However, if there is cashless India, the informal sector will be destroyed. Farmers, labourers, small shopkeepers, small and medium businesses who are dependent on cash, those who cannot live without cash, suffered.”

Surjewala said the Modi government now faced a severe “confidence deficit”.

“Ask the micro, small and medium enterprises and they will tell you that neither do the banks extend loans or financial assistance nor does the words of the finance minister have any weight. Banks have no faith in the government and the government has no faith in the RBI. States have no faith in the central government. An atmosphere of distrust is prevailing. By denying the GST compensation, the Centre has pushed the states into serious crisis. They are creating conditions for a financial emergency.” 

Sitharaman earlier this week projected the pandemic as an “act of God” while announcing the Centre’s decision to disclaim its responsibility of compensating states for GST shortfalls.

Surjewala reeled off critical statistical details: “The International Labour Organisation has said 40 crore Indians are being pushed below the poverty line. In the middle of this economic depredation, 80 lakh people were forced to withdraw Rs 30,000 crore from their EPFO accounts. The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) has reported 2 crore salaried people lost their jobs between April and July 2020. 

“In the unorganised sector, 10 crore jobs were lost during the lockdown. Out of 6.3 crore MSME units in the country, only one-fourth are able to operate at 50 per cent of their capacity. The rest are lying closed or are on the verge of permanent closure.”

The Congress spokesperson pointed out that the State Bank of India’s latest report, released on September 1, had predicted that the GDP growth for 2020-21 would be -10.9 per cent.

“The government should stop the business of lies and falsehood, in addition to curbing the tendency of diverting the people’s attention by using pliable television channels. It should realise the gravity of the crisis and pay heed to sane advice on how to revive the economy,” Surjewala said.


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