Rajya Sabha: Govt, opposition spar over demonetisation

Krishnanand Tripathi
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley speaks in the Rajya  Sabha in New Delhi on Wednesday, December 07, 2016.

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley speaks in the Rajya Sabha in New Delhi on Wednesday, December 07, 2016.

Rajya Sabha today witnessed a stormy start between the treasury benches and opposition parties. No later than the the usual practice of laying papers and statement of the ministers got over, leader of opposition in the house, Gulam Nabi Azad raised the issue of inconvenience caused to the common man due to poor implementation of note replacement scheme.

Gulam Nabi Azad said people have been standing in queues in front of banks and ATMs in the last one month and five bank employees in four states losing their lives due to stress.

“People have committed suicide as they could not arrange for currency for their daughters’ wedding,” Azad said.

“Who is responsible for the death of 84 persons,” he asked and added that “the (demonetisation) scheme was brought without planning and preparation” that has led to severe cash shortage as alternate currency was not available.

As people scrambled to lay hand on valid currency, large scale job losses have been reported as a fallout of demonetisation, the senior Congress leader said.

Azad said Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia yesterday stated that all the currency that was demonetised was supposed to come back to the formal banking system, implying there was no black money or unaccounted wealth in the economy.

“If all money was to come back, why was this high-handed decision taken,” he asked.

Also, RBI has for the last 10 days stopped giving out deposits and exchange of old and debunked currency, he said wanting to know the reason why the central bank has stopped the practice.

RBI, he said, should provide an update on the issue every day.

A scene in the Rajya Sabha during the winter session, in New Delhi on Wednesday, 07 December, 2016.

A scene in the Rajya Sabha during the winter session, in New Delhi on Wednesday, 07 December, 2016.

Azad also cited a reply to a question in Rajya Sabha earlier this week where it was stated that banks have enough currency. If that is so, why are their queues in front of banks and ATMs, he asked.

“Please don’t play with the sentiments of the people by making emotional statements,” he said referring the emotional speeches made by Modi on the demonetisation issue.

Naresh Agarwal (SP) said Prime Minister should apologise for the hardships caused to the people, come to House to listen and reply to the debate on demonetisation.

Mayawati (BSP) said Modi had said that the hardships would be resolved in 50 days but it has been one month and there is no end to the sufferings.

Entire opposition is willing to listen to the Prime Minister provided that he comes to the House, she said, adding that Modi should apologise for the hardships caused.

Kurien then asked how can opposition discuss the issue without resuming the debate. He also directed the BJP members not to raise slogans. But with neither side relenting, he adjourned the proceedings till noon.

Responding to the oppositions’queries, leader of the house, Arun Jaitley said the government was willing to discuss all aspects of demonetisation provided the opposition allows resumption of the debate over the issue.

Jaitley said the government had accepted the oppositions’demand of discussion over the issue without any delay when the house had assembled for the winter session. He said the government also accepted the oppositions’ demand for the prime minister’s participation in the debate but it failed to satisfy the opposition.

Finance Minister and leader of the house Arun Jaitley alleged that the opposition was running away from  a serious debate over the issue that could enable people to have detailed information about the demonetisation and it was only interested in creating noisy scenes in the zero hour for television news.

This led to a strong protest from opposition members who shouted slogans demanding the presence of prime minister in the house. Ensuing pandemonium led to the adjournment of the house till 12 noon.

The house reconvened briefly at 12 noon but continued interruptions led to adjournment of the house till 2 pm.

The upper house reconvened for the business after the lunch but the continuing deadlock between the opposition and treasury benches led the adjournment of the house till next morning.