New Delhi: Digging in his heels, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today ruled out roll back of the demonetisation decision and slammed Delhi and West Bengal Chief Ministers accusing them of spreading “unnecessary panic”.
He said the move to demonetise the high value notes was “very well planned”, and added that the rush in bank branches is “significantly” coming down and 22,000 ATMs are getting recalibrated daily in order to dispense Rs 100, and new 500 and 2,000 rupee notes.
Criticising senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad’s comments in the Rajya Sabha, Jaitley said opposition has developed “cold feet” to debate the issue of demonetisation and criticised Azad for making irresponsible political comment.
Jaitley said he expected every responsible citizen, political party, state governments to support this huge effort because this will mean that India’s formal economy will increase, access to banking will increase, taxation quantum will increase, banks will have far more money to support the economy in terms of trade, interest rates will come down, and therefore the kind of economy it will generate is huge.
“Now unnecessary panic is being spread particularly by some individuals and I didn’t expect Chief Ministers of one or two states to join in this effort,” Jaitley told ANI.
Rejecting the demand of political parties like Aam Admi Party and Trinamool Congress, he said, “whatever AAP and Trinamool Congress said about the roll back, there is no question of that. It is a clear decision of the Prime Minister and government to cleanse politics and economy of the country. We will stick to it (demonetisation)”.
Jaitley questioned the “vested interest” of Congress party in opposing government’s effort to root out black money.
“At the end of the day, this exercise will only succeed in rooting out black money, crime money and make the Indian economy cleaner. Congress as a national party must support this,” he said.
In a major assault on black money and terror financing, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8 announced demonetisation of 500 and 1,000 rupee notes and asked holders of such notes to deposit them in bank accounts.
Jaitley said Rs 14 lakh crore or 86 per cent of India’s currency has been withdrawn and replacement is being done and printing of the new currency was done in adequate by the RBI much in advance.
“The whole thing is a very well planned and executed exercise. Obviously in the first two-three days there was a lot of rush, last three days I have been going everyday myself to look at bank branches and I can say with full confidence that the rush has significantly come down… And today it has come down substantially,” he said.
Jaitley said 22,000 ATMs are being recalibrated in a day on war footing and in next few days all would be dispensing money. “RBI has provided more than adequate currency to the currency chest, there is absolutely no shortage”.
He said the earlier currency exchange limit of Rs 4,500 was being “misused”. Following complaints that people are being hired to convert money and that is responsible for big queue, the government decided to start using indelible ink and reduced the limit of currency exchange to Rs 2,000 per person till December 30.
“For me, there is a great regret that some people have been inconvenienced, which was bound to take place in an operation of this kind because the larger object in the interest of country that we have to squeeze the quantum of currency, we have to withdraw the quantum of currency which was used in generation of black money, counterfeit. And we had to allow normal volume of currency in the market…,” he said.
He said most Chief Ministers across the country have not only supported this but they have in a big manner used the apparatus of state government to support this entire move.
On why the government was targeting only cash to unearth black money, Jaitley said it was necessary to squeeze cash to prevent generation of more black money.
“You have to squeeze cash because black money generates more black money. Not whatever is in assets is a matter of assessment by the income tax authorities. But whatever is lying in hard cash so that it does not generate anything for the future, has to be squeezed out,” he added.
Jaitley also dismissed the criticism that banks have written off loans belonging to large industrial houses.
“Write off in the banking parlance, does not mean loan waiver. It just means, that a performing asset has become a non-performing asset. And therefore the opposition must understand the banking terminology before making an irresponsible statement,” he added.